Smartphones Now Dominant in US

According to Nielsen’s May survey of mobile consumers in the U.S., 38 percent now own smartphones. Apple’s iOS up, Android is flat, and RIM is down among recent acquirers.

And 55 percent of those who purchased a new handset in the past three months reported buying a smartphone instead of a feature phone. That’s up from 34 percent just a year ago.

The FCC’s recent report on wireless competition (pdf) shows the largest percentage of smartphone users are younger people.

The FCC report also noted that Verizon and AT&T generate the highest profit margins, both over 40%.

Time is quickly running out for RIM say industry insiders. RIM’s new QNX OS runs Adobe AIR and BlackBerry WebWorks applications. But support for Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR and HTML-5, may not be enough as Blackberry and Playbook face-off against Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Ericsson Demos 1 Gbps Advanced LTE

Ericsson this week demonstrated a technology demonstration using LTE Advanced, for the Swedish Post and Telecom Agency (PTS). The demonstration, held in Kista, Sweden, featured wireless speeds of nearly 1 Gbps

The system bonded 3, 20MHz channels together (60MHz aggregated) in a mobile environment for the first time and used their commercial RBS 6000 basestation. Other demonstrations of ultrafast wireless broadband have been made by Huawei, which reached speed of 1.2 Gbps, using 80 MHz of multi-carrier channel space, along with 4×4 MIMO, and Samsung.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defines IMT-Advanced as a true 4G system. They selected only two standards that fulfill ITU criteria of 100 Mbps (mobile) and 1 Gbps (fixed) speeds; LTE Advanced, which is incorporated into the 3GPP Release 10 global standard, and WirelessMAN-Advanced, incorporated into WiMAX 2.0.

The WiMax 2 specification is said to enable mobile speeds of 120Mbit/s (downlink) and 60Mbit/s (uplink) in an urban scenario using 4×2 MIMO (Multiple-Input/Multiple-Output) antennas on a 20MHz-wide channel. WirelessMAN-Advanced may be available for commercial operation in 2012. The first stages of LTE Advanced are expected to be in commercial operation in 2013.

LTE Advanced builds on LTE’s technical base and allows multiple 5 MHz or 10 MHz channels to be tied together and uses additional MIMO antennas and radios. In the Ericsson demonstration, 60MHz of aggregated bandwidth was used, along with 8×8 MIMO, with 8 antennas on the basestation and 8 on the client.

Lightsquared Files Official FCC Report

Innovative satphone provider LightSquared officially submitted it’s plan to use satphone frequencies on terrestrial towers to U.S. regulators today.

LightSquared claims their proposed solution resolves interference for approximately 99.5 percent of all commercial GPS devices- including 100 percent of the 300 million GPS-enabled cell phones.

Its plan to reduce interference would not use half the frequencies that it initially planned to use which nearest the adjacent GPS band, and Lightsquared said it would reduce power by 50% to the remaining terrestrial frequencies, effectively eliminating 99.5% of any interference. The company said it would work with the remaining .5% to resolve any remaining interference problems.

The GPS community is largely opposed to Lightsquared’s proposal, especially those who use very high accuracy devices such as John Deere.

Deere says the company’s engineers have determined that there is currently no practicable technical solution, or solutions in combination, available to avoid or substantially mitigate interference from LightSquared’s base stations to Deere’s existing precision GPS system and to similar systems operated by others, particularly in the agriculture and construction industries.

Differential GPS obtains precise positions using a separate radio transmitter on known points such as survey markers. Augmentation signals are the most at risk by the Lightsquared system, say opponents. StarFire and Omnistar, which broadcast additional “correction information” for high precision receivers, are swamped by nearby LightSquared base stations.

The Differential GPS system developed by John Deere called StarFire can resolve to 10cm (4 inches). It does that by comparing a GPS broadcast on two frequencies, L1 and L2, then compares the effects of the ionosphere on propagation time. GPS satellites broadcast at, 1.57542 GHz (L1 signal) and 1.2276 GHz (L2 signal).

Assisted GPS improves the startup performance of GPS on cellular phones while GPS augmentation refers to techniques used to improve the accuracy of positioning information.

The Coalition to Save Our GPS, a group of GPS makers said they found “consistent and overwhelming evidence that LightSquared’s proposed operations would cause massive interference to every type of GPS device.” Members of the Coalition to Save Our GPS includes FedEx and United Parcel Service, GPS-unit makers Trimble and Garmin and the Air Transport Association with members Delta Air Lines and American Airlines.

“The direct economic costs of full GPS disruption to commercial GPS users and GPS manufacturers are estimated to be $96 billion per year in the United States, the equivalent of 0.7 percent of the U.S. economy”, said one study sponsored by the Coalition to Save Our GPS.

Lightsquared hoped to launch a nationwide LTE network and avoid the cost of acquiring new frequencies by using terrestrial repeaters. Interference from the geosynchronous satellite were never a problem. The terrestrial towers, however, would swamp nearby GPS receivers, opponents argue.

In the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, some 90 megahertz of spectrum was allocated to the Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) – in both the 2 GHz band, and the 1.6 GHz L-band.

The S-band, in the 2 GHz range, is largely interference-free and used by satphone providers TerreStar and ICO. The L-band, centered around 1.6 GHz, is adjacent to GPS frequencies and used by Inmarsat (1525-1544 MHz/1545-1559 MHz) and Lightsquared (1626.5-1645.5 MHz/1646.5-1660.5 MHz).

LightSquared planned to devote 40 MHz of L-Band spectrum to terrestrial use (pdf), worth approximately $12 billion according to the Brattle Group. LightSquared acquired rights to 46 MHz of LBand frequencies between 1626.5 MHz – 1660.5 MHz (uplink) and 1525 MHz – 1559 MHz (downlink) in a deal with Inmarsat. Inmarsat provides services mostly to the maritime industry. The remaining 6 MHz of its L-Band will be devoted to MSS (Mobile Satellite Services).

Harbinger initially planned to have 23 MHz available from Lightsquared – 8 MHz of 1.4 GHz terrestrial spectrum, 5 MHz of 1.6 GHz terrestrial spectrum and 10 MHz of MSS L-Band spectrum (ATC waiver). By 2013, they hoped to add an additional 30MHz available through cooperation with Inmarsat and additional ATC waivers in the L-Band. Now the plan is to use the Inmarsat spectrum first. But that may be easier said than done.

Under the FCC authorization, LightSquared committed to build-out 4G terrestrial LTE based service to at least 36% of the population (100 million people) by the end of 2012 and at least 92% of the U.S. population (260 million people) by 2015.

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Skype for Android 2.0

Skype today announced an updated version of its Skype for Android appSkype for Android 2.0.

Handsets that support video calling are currently limited to the HTC Desire S, Sony Ericsson Xperia neo, Sony Ericsson Xperia pro and the Google Nexus S.

The new version can make and receive free 1-to-1 video calls over between an Android phone and other Skype contacts on the iPhone, Mac, Windows PCs and even TVs. Skype for Android with video works over Wi-Fi or 3G data connections and can be downloaded for free from the Android Market or using any phone browser.

It features a complete redesign of the Skype for Android user interface. There’s a new main menu on the Skype app for Android where users can navigate easily through their contacts, access their Skype profile to change personal details or see the balance of their Skype Credit.

In addition to video calls, users can also make calls to landlines and mobiles, as well as send SMS’s to friends and family anywhere in the world at low Skype rates.

Ergen Likely Got TerreStar

TerreStar Networks did not receive any competing bids for its assets Monday, clearing the way for Dish Network to acquire the company for about $1.38 billion, reports Reuters.

A 5 p.m. deadline came and went with Dish’s $1.375 billion minimum or “stalking horse” bid, submitted June 15, remaining the only offer on the table, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the sale process is private.

Potential challengers to Dish had included TerreStar’s senior bondholders and MetroPCS. If no bids are received, TerreStar would likely cancel its auction initially planned for Thursday, the sources said. A sale hearing is scheduled for July 7.

Billionaire Charles Ergen controls satellite television service Dish Networks, providing direct broadcast satellite service to 14.337 million customers in the United States. In March Ergen’s EchoStar, which owns the satellite fleet for Dish Network, won the right to acquire bankrupt DBSD (formerly ICO) for about $1.4 billion. This June he also completed a $1.33 billion purchase of Hughes Communications, a broadband internet satellite system. Ergen also recently closed a $320 million deal for Blockbuster.

That would pull off a spectacular triple play, right under the noses of cable and telecom giants, delivering satellite television, broadband internet access, and mobile phone service.

Space Systems/Loral, manufacturer of the TerreStar satellite, filed court papers Tuesday saying the plan would pay it only a fraction of what is owed. The plan would require TerreStar to pay about $5.6 million as a so-called cure amount, far less than the roughly $43 million Space Systems says it is owed, according to the filing. AT&T also objected to the plan, saying the plan could prevent it from seeking indemnity from Dish in certain cases where consumers claim damages against AT&T for problems related to the TerreStar phone.

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White Space Test in UK

The Financial Times said that Microsoft is set to lead a UK consortium trialling the use of “white space” spectrum to deliver mobile broadband services, with other participants including the BBC, BT, Nokia, Samsung and media company BSkyB.

“Spectrum is a finite natural resource. We can’t make more and we must use it efficiently and wisely,” said Dan Reed, Microsoft’s vice president of technology policy and strategy. “The TV white spaces offer tremendous potential to extend the benefits of wireless connectivity to many more people, in more locations, through the creation of super Wi-Fi networks.”

The companies will explore the use of frequencies in the 470MHz–790MHz range, which has been set aside for digital terrestrial television services, but which is not being fully used by broadcasters.

Network start-up Neul has announced a wireless technology designed to connect machines using the “white space” It was noted that the low frequency range of the spectrum in the trial will enable networks to cover larger areas than alternatives, such as LTE and Wi-Fi. The paper also reported that Microsoft has held discussions in Japan and Singapore about the use of white space for mobile services, while US regulators have also stated their support for such technology.

The FT said that one of the most important requirements of the UK trial will be to demonstrate to regulator Ofcom that mobile broadband services will not interfere with television transmissions. A white space network would likely include a frequency database which would define the spectrum available for mobile services, in order to remove the potential for interference.

Ofcom plans to auction their 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum next March. White spaces would be unlicensed, utilizing unused television frequencies. The availability of spectrum would vary from region to region.

Both Microsoft and Google are interested in delivering services over “white spaces” using ad-funded networks. They are expected to be cheaper than licensed cellular frequencies and penetrate indoors better.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and othersx have compared the white-space market to Wi-Fi–a $4 billion-a-year industry that also does not require a spectrum license.

Last year, Microsoft commissioned research that suggests white-space applications may generate $3.9 billion to $7.3 billion in economic value each year.

According to Microsoft, the range and bandwidth offered by TV white spaces can more easily support a variety of connected devices that offer services and communicate with one another, such as connected automobiles and retail signs, as well as wireless connectivity like WiFi.