T-Mobile MVNO Launches With 25,000 Subs
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T-Mobile MVNO Launches With 25,000 Subs
Solavei is making its official debut Friday, already armed with 25,000 customers ready to spread the word about its unlimited, social network-driven mobile service on T-Mobile USA 's network. (See Solavei Launches Recruit-Your-Friends Wireless Service.)The mobile virtual network operator (MVNO)'s contract-free service shakes up the business model for mobile, rewarding subscribers with cash for each additional subscriber they recruit to the service. After a $49 sign-up fee, subscribers pay a flat fee of $49 per month for unlimited data on any unlocked GSM phone, while racking up money if they choose to bring more people on board.This way, Jim Ryan, head of products at Solavei, says that the company is making up the money it pays out by not doing any advertising on its own. He says that the company started with just 12 representatives and has since grown to 25,000 with 93 percent choosing to refer the service to friends."The amount of money spent on ads and distributions is big," Ryan says. "Were not spending any of that. It's good business to make your customers do it. It's very efficient."Solavei wholesales access to T-Mobile's high-speed packet access-plus (HSPA+) network, but Ryan says it will also offer service on its upcoming Long Term Evolution (LTE) when it's ready."We're excited about what T-Mobile is doing to advance its network, but they also had plenty of room to put on new customers, and we expect to add a ton," Ryan says of Solvei's decision to work with the carrier, which is stepping up its focus on the wholesale market. T-Mobile got the MVNO up and running in just six months. (See T-Mobile's New CEO to Lead Challenger Strategy.)Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) has been another champion of the wholesale mode, racking up new MNVOs like Republic Wireless , FreedomPop and Ting. (See Sprint Builds an MVNO Factory, Startup Taps Devicescape for Wi-Fi-First Network, Meet the New US Wireless Operators, FreedomPop to Phase Out Clearwire for Sprint LTE and Ting: Bad Name, Great Idea.)
OS Watch: Samsung Lumps iPhone 5 Into Lawsuit
Samsung Corp. wasted no time adding the iPhone 5 into its lawsuit against Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL).The device, which went on sale in stores Friday, racked up 2 million pre-orders, making it the best-selling iPhone yet and the biggest rival to Samsung's Galaxy S III. (See iPhone 5: A 4G Stress Test and Samsung's Big Bang: 5 US Carriers Get the S III.)Samsung wrote in a U.S. court filing that it expects "to add the iPhone 5 as an accused product" soon, anticipating it will infringe on the same "Samsung patents-in-suit in the same way as the other accused iPhone models."Samsung's lawsuit comes less than a month after it lost to Apple in U.S. court to the tune of US$1.05 billion in damages. The jury found that Apple did not infringe on any Samsung patents, a verdict the South Korean company continues to fight. (See Jury: Apple Guilty, But Samsung Much Guiltier and Apple vs. Samsung: LTE & the Damage Done.)In other mobile OS news:Happy birthday, Android!: The first Android-powered smartphone, T-Mobile USA 's G1, launched on Sept. 23, 2008, which means Sunday is the little green guy's fourth birthday. PCMag walks down memory lane for Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s past four years with the operating system, starting with its weak first attempts, followed by the breakout Motorola Mobility Inc. (NYSE: MMI) Droid franchise at Verizon Wireless , tablet forays and finally where it is today, leading the smartphone market but taking blows in the courtroom. So, happy birthday, Android! Sorry the iPhone 5 is crashing your party.Microsoft cozies up to HTC: Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) was stepping out on its man this week as CEO Steve Ballmer joined High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) in introducing its first Windows 8 smartphones, the Windows Phone 8S and Windows Phone 8X. The two were so cozy that HTC even ditched its own branding in favor of Microsoft's. Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)'s executive VP Chris Weber took notice too, as he sent out some Tweets suggesting HTC was a copycat. "It takes more than matching color to match the innovation of the Lumia 920," one Tweet read. Consumers will vote later this fall when both companies' devices go on sale. (See HTC Unveils Its First Windows 8 Phones and Nokia Lights Up Windows Phone 8 Devices.)BB10 spotted in the wild: Against the backdrop of the iPhone 5 launch and Android and Windows 8 announcements, Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) (Nasdaq: RIMM; Toronto: RIM) is still taking its time on BlackBerry 10. Images of its first "L-Series" smartphones with the latest OS, due out next year, are making their way across the web, though. A Vietnamese site even said it got its hands on one of the prototypes and found it included a removable battery, a Near-Field Communications (NFC) chip and two-way cameras for video chat. (See RIM Hopes BB10 Roadshow Will Wow Carriers and How Many BlackBerry 10s Must RIM Sell? )Apple's iOS 6 usage soars: Apple launched iOS 6 on Wednesday, two days before the iPhone 5 launch, and the adoption rate amongst iProduct users rose to 15 percent in the first 24 hours, according to online advertising network Chitika. By comparison, iOS 5 took five days to reach 20 percent adoption, and Google's latest OS is on just 1.5 percent of its devices after two months. Initial reactions aren't all positive, however, with many complaining of Wi-Fi issues and inaccurate maps. (See Apple iOS 6 Shakes Up Mobile Communications and Google Wants Maps Apps on All Devices.)
Avoiding Egypt: Where Cables Fear to Dredge
Last week's shocking events in Libya have underscored just how volatile the Middle East/North Africa region can be.
It's a lesson the submarine network operators have already taken on board. Cable owners from various points on the globe are following an unwritten but widely agreed rule -- avoid Egypt.A raft of cables just being built or planned are designed around the core idea of giving the Middle East hotspot a wide berth.People give varying reasons -- commercial, physical, political. But the main reason is the unpredictable nature of the region.The practice goes back a long way. Since the Empire telegraph was run out to Mumbai in 1870, cables have been laid through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean. Now dozens of cables run along the bed of the Red Sea, yet despite the boom in Middle East telecoms, it's hard to find another subsea cable planned for that route.One of the last to follow that route was the Gulf Bridge International cable, built between Qatar and Europe and launched earlier this year, which had to navigate its way through 194 cable crossings, the bulk of them off the Egypt coast. (See Gulf Subsea Network Boasts 100G and Xtera Lands Gulf Deal.)But the Red Sea is not just a physical bottleneck. Arvind Datye, director of business development for Gulf Bridge, said Arab Spring unrest had caused delays during the construction period in 2010-2011. "We had our share of problems," he told attendees at the Submarine Networks World event in Singapore earlier this month.Subsea cable executives also recall the series of unexplained breaks to subsea systems off the Egypt coast and in the Persian Gulf in 2008. (See Subsea Cable Cuts Hit Euro/Asia Route.)"During the Mubarak years, no-one was concerned about the Suez Canal. Given the Arab Spring, I think that's changed,” said Ulises Pin, a partner at law firm Bingham McCutcheon. "I think it's mostly an issue in bottlenecks, in combination with the instability."John Hibbard, who runs a Sydney-based industry consultancy, says commercial issues also are a factor. "By virtue of its location, Telecom Egypt has a good deal of leverage over cable-builders," he said. In recent years, operators have found reaching agreement with the Egyptian incumbent carrier "a significant challenge."New cables are finding other ways to connect Europe and the Middle East. The Europe-Persia Express Gateway (EPEG), a terrestrial cable that routes from Frankfurt to Oman via Ukraine and Iran, is built "away from the known trouble areas," says Gavin Tait, director of Asia network planning for Cable & Wireless Worldwide plc (London: CW), now part of the Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD). "Obviously it doesn't go anywhere near the Red Sea," he adds. (See Euronews: Vodafone Gets the Nod on C&WW, Vodafone Appoints C&WW Execs and ancotel Provides EPEG Connection Point.)Chris Wood, CEO of African carriers' carrier WIOCC, cites the proposed 34,000-km BRICS cable, which aims to connect all five major emerging markets (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the U.S., starting from the Russian east coast."That cable is not really about connecting those countries -- it's really about avoiding Egypt," Wood said. "[Egypt] has become an issue for the whole industry. A number of countries are deciding they want to avoid Egypt entirely. These are being built not because of demand on a specific route but specifically to avoid Egypt," he added.But while Egypt may top the list of places to avoid, it's not the only one cable owners dread.The new Asia Submarine-cable Express (ASE), which runs from Tokyo to Singapore, gives Taiwan a wide berth. Taiwan's earthquake-prone southern tip is home to half a dozen major transpacific cables that, when hit by a tremor in December 2006, all but broke the Asia/Pacific Internet. (See Asia Submarine-cable Express to Launch, NTT Plans $430M Subsea Cable, Earthquake Cuts Cables Near Taiwan and Quake Shakes IP Transit Market.)Meanwhile, Singapore's popularity as a network destination is making it hard to land cables there, says Genaro Sanchez, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) vice-president of network planning and engineering. "The corridor in Singapore is narrow, it's getting crowded, [and] it's getting more difficult to work with cables."Unless there's an absolute "need to drop capacity in Singapore," operators should seek to build around it, he suggests.
And for some, even the world's biggest telecom market is one to keep away from. The Russian-led Polarnet Project (website in Russian only), which plans to take advantage of the shrinking Arctic ice cap to build a system over the North Pole, boasts the lack of a connection to the U.S.Deputy Director-General Ruslan Saushkin says the cable will connect London, Murmansk, Beijing and Tokyo, offering a "diverse route" to the U.S. without actually landing there -- a positive for Russian and Chinese customers.For more on Polarnet's planned Russian Optical Trans-Arctic Cable System (ROTACS) and its rival Arctic Fibre, read this article.
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