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CTIA shows that phones are not just for talking

Apr 12, 20063 mins

* Convergence at CTIA

While we haven’t talked much about fixed/mobile convergence lately, several announcements coming from last week’s CTIA Wireless 2006 show caught our attention. In deference to our colleague Joanie Wexler over at the wireless newsletter desk, we’ll leave most of the cool stuff to her but today we want to give our readers a few very short highlights and analysis.

First, The Wireless Association announced “that 25.7 million new wireless subscribers were added in calendar year 2005, breaking a previous 12-month growth record that was set in June. The total number of estimated wireless customers in America at year-end 2005 was 207.9 million.” Given that the U.S. Census Bureau showed America’s adult population in 2004 was about 220 million, maybe this mobility thing is catching on. And it isn’t just voice. In the same announcement, the association noted that: “revenue from wireless data services amounted to more than $8.58 billion in 2005, up from $4.60 billion in 2004.” The Wireless Association also announced “a partnership agreement to develop and promote certification programs for converged Wi-Fi/mobile handsets.”

We also took note of how users can increasingly use their mobile devices to do more that talk or send e-mail. For example during the CTIA show, PayPal introduced a service called PayPal Mobile, “a text message-based service allowing consumers in the U.S. and Canada to send money anytime, from anywhere, using their mobile telephones,” according to a company statement. And it looks like PayPal already has some possible customers. The statement said that “companies like 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Bravo, MTV, and the NBA Store” are already offering items for purchase using the system. While we know that using a mobile device to pay for something isn’t exactly new, we believe PayPal’s endorsement of the approach guarantees it isn’t just a fad for techno-geeks.

And, along with the usual announcements of handsets and cool games, we took note when RealNetworks announced it is adding more games to the company’s library. While we’re both familiar with RealNetworks applications on our PC as a way to play streaming video on the desktop, we only recently noticed that RealNetworks’ vision extended to mobile devices as well.

And, lest our readers think CTIA was just about the cool stuff consumers like to play with, Nokia also announced it is offering a hosting service so “operators can focus squarely on winning and retaining subscribers by offering popular services such as PoC and multimedia messaging.” Nokia joins other competitors that offer a similar service.

In their announcement, Nokia said: “The business environment for mobile service providers is becoming tougher, and new multimedia services are becoming increasingly complex to install and maintain.” And we agree. As mobile service providers begin to add enterprise mobility to all the consumer’s fun and games, we think creating a mutually supportive ecosystem is a great idea for both infrastructure providers and services providers.

Commenting on the Nokia announcement, John Marcus, senior analyst for Telecom Infrastructure Services at Current Analysis, said: “As the telecom equipment industry entered significant downturn, a number of companies ramped up their services operations to diversify revenue while leveraging expertise and an existing customer base. In the meantime, network operators have become more comfortable with the idea of off-loading certain tasks to supplier-partners. Services like Nokia Mobility Hosting help mitigate risk for operators in launching new, untested services, while giving them an edge in terms of time-to-market. For Nokia, this is another example of why more than 30% of its systems revenues are now coming from services rather than infrastructure sales.”