It was the week that saw Ericsson quit its handset JV with Sony, while Nokia revealed its first smartphone with Microsoft’s OS and Android took the lead in the apps race.
Sony-Ericsson became just Sony this week after Ericsson agreed to sell its 50% stake to Sony for €1.05b ($1.5b). The Sony-Ericsson business will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony under the widely expected deal, although both companies also announced an initiative to develop wireless connectivity solutions across multiple platforms.
With access to Ericsson's patents portfolio via a broad IP cross-licensing agreement and ownership of five essential patent families, Sony will be able to integrate handsets more effectively into its overall digital media range in ways it was unable to effectively do under the JV with Ericsson, says Rethink Research director Caroline Gabriel.
Nokia chief Stephen Elop unveiled the first Nokia smartphone running the Windows Phone OS this week on the opening day of the Nokia World developer conference. It’s called the Lumia 800, and Elop billed it as the first handset to make the most of Windows Phone and amplify its best features.
On the bright side, analysts are mostly impressed with the Lumia and Nokia’s ability to differentiate it from the competition. On the downside, no one’s sure if it’s good enough to convince punters to not buy iPhones or Android phones. Also, says Informa Telecoms & Media’s David McQueen, waiting until next year to launch it in the US – the one major market Nokia still hasn’t cracked – is a mistake.
It was also the week that saw Android declared the new king of the smartphone heap in terms of both smartphones and app downloads.
ABI Research estimated that Android took a 44% share of the apps download market during Q2 this year, compared to 31% for iOS.
The average iPhone owner still consumes twice as many apps as the average Android user, but the fact that Android now accounts for more downloads is due to its installed user base outpacing Apple 2.4 to 1, says ABI.
Which brings up the other ABI projected factoid: Android devices will account for 52% of smartphone sales this year in Asia-Pacific, up from just 16% last year.
It was also the week in which Skype landed itself another operator deal – this one with Indonesia’s Telkomsel. Under the partnership, Skype will be made available initially on 24 Telkomsel smartphones including Samsung, Blackberry, Nokia and LG handsets, with plans to extend support to a broader base of phones – including J2ME-enabled ones – in future.
According to the Jakarta Post, Telkomsel sees peer-to-peer telecoms services as the next big thing and – learning from its experience with BlackBerry – decided to take a pro-active approach. Telkomsel planning and development chief Herfini Haryono said he hoped the deal would lure some of the estimated five million local PC-based Skype users to use Skype via its mobile offering.
In other news for the week, India's Department of Telecom asked regulator Trai to review existing M&A guidelines, which currently prohibit mergers that decrease the amount of service providers in a given telecom circle to below six.
The DoT is hoping to address the problem of hyper-competition by allowing more M&As with a minimum number of operators based on population. But it may be too late for some telco execs, who say they’re planning to jump ship because market conditions are unsustainable.
It was also the week where Commonwealth Bank of Australia teased the nation's first NFC payment service for iPhones, getting around the lack of an integrated NFC chip by including one in an accompanying phone cover. The new Kaching service will be launched “in the coming months”, and will support POS payments through MasterCard PayPass terminals, as well as mobile-to-mobile or mobile-to-email payments, and bill payment service BPAY.
Big Deals for the week: PLDT finally completed its purchase of a controlling stake in Digitel, but with concessions such as selling 10MHz of 3G spectrum currently owned by subsidiary CURE; ZTE revealed plans to sell its controlling stake in service provider JV Congo-Chine Telecom to France Telecom's Orange in a transaction worth around $10 million; and VelaTel Global Communications and Next Generation Special Network Communication Technology Co (NGSN) announced plans to form a JV to deploy and operate a TD-LTE network in China, with a focus on B2B services.
And finally, it was the week where we found out that HSPA can run faster than LTE, so everyone who upgraded might as well not have bothered.
But the 3GPP did announce this week that its Rel-11 standard could deliver theoretical peak speeds of 336 Mbps – double that of Rel-10.
4G Americas president Chris Pearson acknowledged that there is “tremendous momentum” behind LTE, but added that “HSPA will continue to be a leader in mobile broadband subscriptions for the next five to ten years.”