Europe's 'big 5' operators meet to discuss smartphones, networks and more

Responding to a call from Orange CEO Stephane Richard, the CEOs of Europe's five largest mobile operators attended a meeting in Paris earlier this week to discuss common interests.

The CEOs, which included Rene Obermann of Deutsche Telekom, Vittorio Colao of Vodafone, Cesar Alierta of Telefonica, Franco Bernabe of Telecom Italia and Richard from Orange, were said to have each brought with them an army of lawyers.

While the meeting was originally positioned to discuss the joint development of a smartphone OS, observers have speculated that the four-hour meeting covered the sharing of networks, R&D resources and applications factories.

However, those actually involved have remained tight-lipped on the subjects or outcomes covered during the meeting, with one participant explaining that "everyone felt very involved."

This reticence to outline any idea of pan-European initiatives is seen as attempting to defuse any intervention by Europe's antitrust authorities.

But analysts have been hesitant to support the original idea of a jointly developed smartphone OS. Tony Cripps from Ovum said that such a consortium would need to compete with the likes of Google and Apple in terms of investments in R&D and marketing in order to have a chance at success.

"[That said,] my concern is that if the OS maker is a group of telecom operators, then precedence might suggest that they will find it extremely difficult to achieve their goals unless they change their approach," Cripps noted.

This was reinforced by Informa analyst, Malik Kamal-Saadi, pointing to the examples of the Symbian and LiMo Foundations as cautionary tales for industry-wide joint ventures looking to bring an OS platform to the mobile market.

Of note, Vodafone was a founding member of the LiMo Foundation and a board member of the Symbian Foundation, while Orange and Telefonica are core members of LiMo and members of the Symbian Foundation.

For more on this story:
- read Telecompaper (sub req) & ZDnet

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