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News@2 - September 21, 2007

Fri, 09/21/2007 - 9:26am

NY Subway Stations Get Wired

By Teresa von Fuchs

Cellular service may be coming to New York City subway stations. After nearly three years of bidding and proposals, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced that Transit Wireless has won the bid to wire all 277 underground stations for cell phone use, though service will not extend into the tunnels.

Transit Wireless, a joint venture involving Nab Construction, Q-Wireless, Dianet Communications and Transit Technologies, has agreed to pay the MTA a minimum of $46.8 million over 10 years, as well as paying the full cost of building the wireless network, which is estimated to fall between $150 and $200 million. Under the agreement, wireless carriers will pay Transit Wireless to carry their signals over the network once its built.

The service will start with six stations in Manhattan. Transit Wireless expects to finish wiring those stations within two years; if all goes well, then the company will have four more years to wire the remainder of the MTA's subway stations.

The carriers, some of whom filed a competing bid with the MTA, have yet to comment about the deal, which will most likely be finalized next week.

 

SK Telecom Invests Another $200 Million in Helio

By Teresa von Fuchs

South Korea's SK Telecom has said it will invest an additional $200 million in its U.S. mobile venture Helio. SK Telecom and Internet service provider Earthlink are Helio parent companies.

"SK Telecom will invest a maximum of $200 million in SK Telecom USA Holdings, gearing up to expand the Helio subscriber base through handset and service development and marketing activities," the company said in a statement.

Launched in 2006, Helio has been targeting the young, tech savvy set. However the company has yet to make much headway.  Although it posted an average 30% subscriber growth per month; at the end of August the company had only 130,000 subscribers. The company said it hopes to reach 250,000 subscribers by the end of this year.

Earlier this year, SK Telecom invested an additional $100 million in SK Telecom USA Holdings to reinforce the Helio brand, saying that it didn't expect the company to draw further investment from either parent company. Earthlink and SK Telecom are also in talks to amend their current relationship with regard to Helio and SK Telecom's recent investments.

SK Telecom said this latest investment raises its stake in the company to $520 million. Its initial capital investment was $220 million. The company said it expects Helio to post a net loss of between $330 and $360 million for this year, up from $192 million last year, and that it expects the company to become profitable by 2009.

 

Security Specialist Warns about iPhone Weaknesses

By Teresa von Fuchs

A security researcher with McAfee's Avert Labs has issued a warning about possible security issues with Apple's iPhone. Although the handset doesn't allow third-party applications to run on the device, Web-based applications can still provide a way in for hackers looking to break into the most talked about gadget of the year.

Speaking at the Virus Bulletin security conference in Vienna, security researcher Marius van Oers warned that browser flaws are an easy way for hackers to hijack a system. "It's fairly easy to send someone an SMS or an e-mail with a Web link," van Oers reportedly said. "And once you go to the Web link, then that server can inject code into the iPhone, and if that happens, [a hacker] can have full control."

Though van Oers was not reporting about a specific flaw, like the one found by security company Independent Security Evaluators in August, his views come more as a warning for the likelihood of future attacks.

 

Virgin Mobile Launches New SMS Service

By Wireless Week Staff

Virgin Mobile USA has launched a new text messaging service called 3jam SMS 2.0. The new, free-to-join service improves basic text messaging by allowing friends and family to stay connected with group communication, enabling customers to have multiparty text-message conversations. Virgin Mobile partnered with San Francisco-based SMS services firm 3jam to launch the service.

"At Virgin Mobile, we're dedicated to delivering services that fit our customer base, and this new dimension for texting is certainly an ideal one for our customers who want the simplicity and power of group texting," said Dominick Tolli, vice president of Mobile Data Services for Virgin Mobile USA, in a statement.

3jam SMS 2.0 enables Virgin Mobile customers to send a text message to any number of friends simultaneously, have everyone know who received the message and allow subsequent replies to go to everyone using SMS. The 3jam application is free and requires no subscription. Standard text messaging rates apply. Virgin Mobile customers can sign up on the menu of their WAP deck or at www.3jam.com/virgin. The SMS recipients do not need to sign up.

 

Vodafone Launches Rebranded Service in India

By Teresa von Fuchs

Vodafone has launched its branded service across India, rolling out what it called the world's largest rebranding campaign, following its purchase of a majority stake in Hutchison Essar from Hutchison Telecommunications for 11.1 billion dollars earlier this year.

India represents the world's fastest growing cellular market, and Vodafone has said it wants to make its services top of the list. Hutch has already moved from fourth to third place since being acquired.

As part of the rebranding campaign, Vodafone has joined up with Star TV network to launch a 24-hour nationwide "brand awareness" campaign.

Partly in response to Vodafone's market saturation efforts, Bharti Airtel has joined forces with Nokia to offer bundled phones at subsidized rates. The two companies have entered into a "joint go-to-market strategy," combining some advertising and marketing initiatives aimed at the mid-and lower-end segments, according to India's Economic Times.

"We are deepening our alliance with Nokia on a large scale…We can synergize our operations as both employ strategies such as using rural vans to promote services and running outlets across the country. We are also working towards common outdoor advertising and exploring other areas of partnership," Bharti Airtel's marketing and communication head Gopal Vittal told the paper.

The report also said that Bharti plans to launch a suite of value-added services within the next few days.

 

Another VoIP Provider Enters the Fray

By Teresa von Fuchs

Another Silicon Valley startup has popped up offering unlimited VoIP local and long distance calling for a flat fee of $399 per year. Called Ooma, the company sells a slim box, the Ooma Hub, that users connect to a high-speed Internet connection and a regular telephone. After that, all U.S. calls made through your phone are free and international calls run comparable to other VoIP service providers. Users can plug in additional phones with optional devices called Ooma Scouts that sell for $39.95. Ooma also offers an additional line for free, as well as the ability to listen to voicemails through its Web site.

Former Cisco executive Andrew Frame founded the company. Frame told The Wall Street Journal that Ooma plans to offer additional features on its Website, including the ability to download ringtones and online alerts about incoming calls.

Ooma launched a beta version earlier this summer, becoming widely available this week.

 

News Briefs for September 21, 2007

Companies in today's briefs include: Cedar Point Communications, AT&T, Alcatel-Lucent, Mobilink

Cedar Point Communications, a provider of integrated VoIP switching technologies, has announced the general availability of its SAFARI C³ Multimedia Switching System for voice-over-WiMAX applications. SAFARI C³ is a fully integrated voice-switching platform that supports TDM, packet and SIP-based telephony services.  SAFARI C³ simplifies the network by integrating all of the elements of the VoIP switching architecture into a single unit to cost-effectively provide carrier-class performance and reliability, while increasing network integrity, security and privacy. Designed to meet the needs of both small and large voice providers, SAFARI C³ scales from 2,500 lines to upward of 250,000 lines on the same platform.

AT&T announced the appointment of Raymond Ng as general manager of its Vietnam operations. In his new role, Ng will be responsible for managing AT&T's operations in Vietnam, as well as driving business development in the country's rapidly emerging telecommunications market. As part of its commitment to providing global customers with communications services wherever their businesses take them, AT&T has been building up its presence in Vietnam in recent years. In 2006, AT&T extended its global business to Vietnam by collaborating with local telecom Viettel. Before his new appointment, Ng was a senior sales manager in NTT Communications from 2005 to 2007.

Alcatel-Lucent and Pakistan's Mobilink have signed a contract to deploy the country's first live network based on the Universal 802.16e-2005 WiMAX network. The network will cover major cities in Pakistan, including Karachi, the nation's financial capital and the major business center. Alcatel-Lucent will supply its Universal WiMAX end-to-end solution, including base stations, wireless access controllers, an operation and maintenance center (OMC) as well as customer premise equipment (CPE) and network integration services. The new network leverages equipment already installed in Mobilink's GSM network, helping to reduce deployment cost.

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