Mobile Sands

April 5, 2009

LTE in spotlight at subdued CTIA

Filed under: 3G, LTE, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — AJ @ 3:52 am

CTIA 2009 was subdued but well attended.  Still, people and companies that had to be at the show to network were there.  LTE continued its march towards becoming the undisputed 4G technology, with most major infrastructure vendors either demonstrating their LTE products or presenting their story, with many claiming (optimistically, I think) that they will have a “commercial solution” by the end of 2009.

Several large vendors demonstrate LTE

  • Motorola was not only demonstrating LTE speed but also mobility. It had set up two LTE base stations (700 MHz, FDD) close to the convention center. A van equipped with an LTE modem and capturing HD video and piping it to the booth, while passengers in the van could see the van. Motorola also had an LTE TDD base station in the booth and were using it for additional video demos.
  • ZTE was demonstrating LTE data speeds and were showing a prototype LTE base station (digital functions running on microTCA chassis, connected to a remote radio head).
  • LG was demonstrating its handset baseband implementation using infrastructure from Nortel and Alcatel-Lucent.  LG was showing 40 Mbps download rates with Nortel’s LTE gear, and using the ALU gear for a VoIP calls.
  • Qualcomm was demonstrating LTE handset baseband with third-party infrastructure (I believe, Nokia Siemens Networks) and talking about three multi-mode LTE chips (MDM9200, MSM 8960, MDM 9800 ) that will sample in mid-2009. 
  • I did not see LTE demos in Huawei, ALU, Ericsson and NSN booths, but that does not mean they did not have demos for select customers and analysts.  All of them did have presentations in which they talked about their “end-to-end LTE solutions” covering eNBs, EPC, and OA&M.  And I am sure, many of you have already read about how Nokia compared WiMAX to Betamax.

Smaller vendors thinking about building LTE base stations as well

I had written off LTE RAN equipment as a play for big infrastructure vendors.  However, during conversations at the show, I was surprised to hear that several smaller companies are thinking about building LTE base stations as well. Airwalk is one. And I heard about few WiMAX companies who want to build LTE base stations as well.  Practically all of them are thinking about pico/micro base stations that implement standards-based interfaces to the core. 

From CDMA2000 to LTE

CDG had organized a workshop to convince CDMA2000 operators that they can deploy LTE directly, without having to switching to UMTS now.  I made it to the workshop for the last 30 minutes and heard part of ALU’s presentation in which the ALU speaker argued that it would be best to leave voice on CDMA 1xRTT for several years and use LTE just for data…

Blackberry App Store, Next-gen Backhaul and more

Of course, there was lot happening at CTIA besides LTE.  RIM’s CEO Mike Lazaridis formally launched Blackberry’s App Store at CTIA.  Initial reviews were mixed.  See CNET and Sensobi.  Backhaul was on the minds of the few operators I spoke to, and there were several Ethernet and wireless/microwave  backhaul solutions on display, as a well as a half-day workshop on next-generation backhaul open to all attendees.  Verizon reiterated its aggressive LTE plans, talked about the need to reduce the number of handset platforms, and announced that it had teamed up with Vodafone, Softbank and China Mobile to create a “single platform” for developing applications.  If you are interested, CTIA has posted all the keynotes on its website.

Please feel free to comment, or add any other information about the show!

March 9, 2009

Blackberry App World Looks Well Thought Through

Filed under: Android, App Store, iPhone, Smartphones — Tags: , , , — AJ @ 8:58 pm

Recently, RIM disclosed more information about its planned application store, now called “Blackberry App World”. Information on a FAQ posted on RIM’s website shows that its store addresses several shortcomings of Apple’s store and tries to replicate what worked well for Apple. Here are few things that I liked:

  • Leverages Paypal to reduce purchasing friction – Customers with Paypal accounts will not have to go through the hassle of establishing a new account to download their first app. This is similar to Apple’s strategy of leveraging iTunes accounts to reduce friction on its App Store.  However, it remains to be seen if Blackberry will use free apps on its store to drive Paypal sign-ups,  something Apple does.
  • Sets $2.99 as lowest price to entice developers to invest – Blackberry is pushing for higher quality applications because it is unlikely to beat Apple on the sheer number of applications (Apple claims to have over 25,000). Though there is no guarantee that a $2.99 application will necessarily be better than a $0.99 one, it does provide developers with a business case to invest more.  Blackberry users will not lose out on apps are available for $0.99 on App Store because most such apps have free (“ad-supported”) counterparts that will eventually make their way to Blackberry
  • Allows developers to offer “Try and Buy” – Blackberry allows developers to chose if they want customers to try their application before they buy it. This is a better model than Apple’s, where developers who want to encourage trials have to create and distribute a “Lite” version or Android’s where all apps are “try and buy”by default (since they are returnable in 24 hours)
  •  Offers flexible licensing schemes to attract enterprise software vendors- Blackberry allows software vendors to run their own license distribution servers. This enables software vendors to implement pricing schemes in which they sell a pool of software licenses to large corporations.
  • Is customizable per operator – Gives operators (and developers) control over which apps are distributed in which markets.

Blackberry’s policies combined with the fact that it offers a higher revenue share (80%) than all other application stores should win it developer support. Now, Blackberry needs to do three more things to effectively compete against Apple:

  1. Offer a fantastic shopping and usage experience to buyers
  2. Convince operators and developers that it has momentum
  3. Create awareness about the applications available on its platform

Let us wait and see how it goes.

    March 4, 2009

    Apple allows Amazon to Sell eBooks on iPhone

    Filed under: App Store, eBooks, games, iPhone, Smartphones — Tags: , , , — AJ @ 3:35 pm

    Apple approved Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader app on the iPhone today. A few days ago, it had allowed Indigo Books’ Shortcovers eBook store.  In a previous post, I had speculated that Apple may not do so and try to sell eBooks itself. Not so.  In the last two months, Apple has also allowed several third-party browsers – something many did not expect last year.  

    These deciscions indicate that Apple cares less about selling digital content (books, apps, games, music) and more about dominating the smart phone market; that it regards Nokia, Blackberry, Windows and Android as its competitors competitors – not Amazon.  And that it regards building a profitable app ecosystem as a way to strengthen its position as the leading smart phone supplier.  This seems like a very wise strategy.  

    Now that Apple has opened the door to companies who want to sell different forms of digital content on iPhones, one of these days, we may even see a digital music storefront show up in the App Store! And maybe some startups will try to create niche marketplaces to sell apps on the iPhone.

    I did download the Kindle app on my iPod Touch.  It looks like a rushed job – a land grab rather than a landmark. Right now, it is exactly what Amazon’s spokesperson calls it – a companion to Amazon’s Kindle device.  A user cannot browse or buy books from the app; that can only be done online or via Safari.  Not exactly, “1-click” shopping.  Further, Amazon does not provide any free, off-copyright books. I expect App Store users to rate the Kindle app at 2.5/5.  Still, not great news for startups like Lexcyle. Or for publishers who are troubled about Amazon’s power in the book industry and would prefer open formats like ePub rather than Amazon’s proprietary format.

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