#TBT: Verizon, Vodafone look ahead to LTE; RIP, Disney Mobile MVNO; the iPhone comes to Europe … this week in 2007

Editor’s Note: RCR Wireless News goes all in for “Throwback Thursdays,” tapping into our archives to resuscitate the top headlines from the past. Fire up the time machine, put on the sepia-tinted shades, set the date for #TBT and enjoy the memories!

Verizon, Vodafone look ahead to LTE

Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Group plc are planning to move to Long Term Evolution technology as the 4G evolution path for their respective networks, according to remarks by company executives this week. Arun Sarin, CEO of Vodafone, and Verizon Communications Inc. chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg, spoke about the technology choice at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference yesterday. Vodafone and Verizon control Verizon Wireless through a joint venture. Sarin laid out a path toward LTE evolution within the next three to four years. Vodafone relies on GSM- and HSPA-based technology for wireless high-speed data access in its properties abroad, while Verizon Wireless-45% owned by Vodafone-is a CDMA operator whose most recent network upgrade has been to EV-DO Revision A. Asked if the complementary network evolution was reflective of cementing a long-term relationship between the two companies, Seidenberg called the categorization fair and said that Verizon has looked for stability in its relationship with Vodafone. As penetration rates slow, he added, common networks offer a new avenue for growth. “Going through a common platform is nothing more than the industry realizing that we can stimulate expansive growth by having a common platform and having the best networks,” said Seidenberg. “We were pleased that they have looked at this just to complete the issue with Vodafone,” he said. “I think we’re going with some trials with them on WiMAX. We’re doing some other trials with them on selling into the enterprise market. We have rallied around this new 8830 BlackBerry that is the global BlackBerry for us. So we have very good operating relationships with them right now.” … Read more

RIP, Disney Mobile as MVNO

The Walt Disney Co. is shutting down its remaining mobile virtual network operator, Disney Mobile, as of Dec. 31.
The company announced this morning that it would dismantle Disney Mobile and would explore “a new business model for its content and services that might include offering its popular Family Center product through a partnership with a major U.S. carrier.” Disney’s former Mobile ESPN MVNO now exists as an application available through Verizon Wireless. The company pulled the plug on Mobile ESPN after less than a year of operations; Disney Mobile launched in June 2006, and runs its service over Sprint Nextel Corp.’s network. “It’s been clear since we launched the MVNO that we were offering something both unique and useful for families that wanted to provide their kids with a mobile phone with suitable content and features while retaining a measure of control on how and when it would be used,” said Steve Wadsworth, president of the Walt Disney Internet Group. “Our feedback from customers and critics from the beginning has been that we exceeded the mark in that respect. However, the MVNO model has proven, as we’ve seen with other companies this past year, to be a difficult proposition in the hyper-competitive U.S. mobile phone market. In assessing our business model, we decided that changing strategies was a better alternative to pursue profitable growth in the mobile services area.” The move is not a total surprise; Tom Staggs, senior executive VP and CFO of Walt Disney Co., indicated at a recent investor conference that the company was re-evaluating its MVNO business due to concerns about distribution and scale. … Read more

Cell service in the NYC subway, imagine that

New York City Transit is one step closer to building a cellphone network in its 277 subway stations, but it remains to be seen if mobile phone providers such as Verizon Wireless are going to pay to offer the service to their customers. Next week, the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is expected to vote in favor of letting Transit Wireless, a consortium of telecom and construction companies, build an underground cellphone network. Under the plan, Transit Wireless will pay New York City Transit at least $46.8 million over a 10-year period, according to the MTA. The firm will also spend an estimated $150 million to $200 million on installing the network. If approved, the company will build networks in six downtown Manhattan stations within two years and complete the rest of the stations in the next four. But before people can start using their cellphones in the subway, their carriers will have to agree to pay Transit Wireless fees to offer the service. Some question how Transit Wireless will recoup all the money it has to spend on building the network. While it will be technically challenging to wire the stations, once a network is set up and operational, the success of it is riding on the wireless carriers’ participation. … Read more

Willkommen, iPhone

Apple Inc. continued its weeklong roll through Europe today as Deutsche Telekom AG’s wireless subsidiary T-Mobile in Germany announced that the iPhone will launch Nov. 9 at $566. The companies offered no word on monthly service costs, or on the length of an expected service contract. Nor did the companies discuss T-Mobile’s expected iPhone-related data revenue-sharing with Apple. The announcement followed yesterday’s iPhone splash in London; O2 will offer the handset in the United Kingdom, releasing it on Nov. 9 as well. A similar announcement is expected later this week from Apple and a French partner, which is rumored to be France Telecom’s Orange. Pete Cunningham, analyst at London-based Canalys, said today that most observers expect that Apple will receive a share of its operator-partners’ iPhone-related data revenue, because the operators are not subsidizing the handset.
As with AT&T Mobility’s Apple deal in the United States, the implications of operators’ revenue-sharing have been a major component of the wireless industry’s conversation over the Apple deals. “That’s the first time revenue-sharing has taken place in the consumer mobile space in Europe,” Cunningham said. “It’s possible that, in the future, handset vendors may choose subsidies or revenue-sharing in their agreements with operators.”
The top European operators would like to move away from handset subsidies, Cunningham said, but whichever makes the first move could be battered by competitors as a result. Thus the analyst expected no quick changes as a result of the unsubsidized iPhone launch. … Read more

MetroPCS goes live in L.A.

MetroPCS Communications Inc. rolled out service in the Los Angeles market today, pitching its flat-rate, unlimited plans to Angelinos. Roger Linquist, chairman and CEO of MetroPCS, said that the company’s initial network coverage includes 11 million potential customers. Metro said it has 400 L.A.-area authorized dealers and six company-owned retail stores, and plans to expand its distribution to 20 company-owned stores in the greater Los Angeles area in the next two years. Customers who sign up for service will get their first month free with the purchase of a MetroPCS handset. MetroPCS’ service already is available in the northern California cities of San Francisco and Sacramento. The carrier is in the midst of a public sparring match with competitor Leap Wireless International Inc. MetroPCS wants to merge with Leap, but Leap executives called its offer inadequate while acknowledging that combining operation had merit. Leap had called into question MetroPCS’ ability to launch markets on time, saying that MetroPCS’ L.A. launch was delayed and covered less area than the carrier had originally planned. MetroPCS has denied any delays; according to the carrier’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the carrier has for some time predicted that it would launch the L.A. market in the second or third quarter of this year. … Read more

Check out the RCR Wireless News Archives for more stories from the past.

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