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Femto Forum crowns TR-069 protocol as new management standard

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It’s official: The Femto Forum has declared its members will be using the Broadband Forum’s TR-069 popular protocol to manage femtocell devices.

Surprising no one, TR-069 was the odds-on favorite for the role, being deployed already in roughly 30 million devices that support the 2/3G service. Indeed, the Forum noted that many members had already decided to go with TR-609 for femtocell management, especially diagnostics and troubleshooting. TR-069 already supports (self)-installation, a key requirement for widespread deployment, and provisioning functions including remote diagnostics and firmware upgrades, as well as RF interference reduction; work is ongoing to add new functionality to the standard near-term.
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China’s handset blues

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China’s handset blues

Production is rising, but new entrants pose definite threats

If you buy a handset today, chances are the model, be it Nokia, Motorola, Samsung or uncanny names like Bird or Gionee, is made in China. In 2007, China produced nearly 550 million handsets, about 45 percent of world total, of which over 400 million were sold outside of China. Mobile handset production is expected to rise again this year by about 10-15 percent.

Mobile handsets are a big business. There are 115 companies competing in all categories, from strip-down low-end models to “Blackberry”-like smart phones, with price in hundreds of dollars apart. Anytime you walk into an electronic store or handset retail outlet, the number of models on display can make your head spin, and people use handsets in different shapes and sounds. The chief reason for a booming handset market in China is handset is sold separate from service plans, so that customers first choose the model they like before signing up for the service; in the West, mobile handsets are virtually free with purchase of wireless service plan, but the supply of brands and models are usually limited.
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New Ericsson & STMicroelectronics venture poses threat

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Ericsson has announced a huge 50:50 joint venture with STMicroelectronics — an acknowledged biggest consolidation in the chipset market since records began.

It will mean that Ericsson’s Mobile Platforms will be merged with ST-NXP Wireless amid claims the new joint venture will have the industry’s strongest product offering in semiconductors and will be supplying components to Samsung, Nokia, Ericsson, Sharp and LG. This follows STMicroelectronics’ acquisition in April this year of semiconductor company NXP wherein STMicro will acquire the remaining 20 percent that it didn’t already own in the NXP joint venture.

This new operation will pose a serious threat to established chipset providers such as Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Freescale.

Each company will bring a wealth of experience and skill to the venture through ST providing 2G/EDGE and 3G knowledge and multimedia products with Ericsson bringing 3G and LTE technology and equipment. Currently, ST has relationships with Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson, whilst at the same time Ericsson is a business bedfellow with LG, Sharp and naturally, Sony Ericsson. Ericsson has a deep understanding of radio access and its wealth of wireless IPRs could well make the new group a very strong chipset manufacturer on a global scale.

Speaking at the announcement, Carl-Henric Svanberg, the president and CEO of Ericsson, said, “By combining the complementary strengths and product offerings of Ericsson and ST in platforms and semiconductors the joint venture is well positioned to become a world leader. The industry continues to develop at a swift pace and customers see benefits from our broad offering. This partnership is a perfect fit and secures a complete offering, as well as the necessary scale for technology leadership.”

Commenting for ST, president and CEO Carlo Bozotti said, “ST is taking another bold step. By combining two industry-leading operations, we will create a world leader in mobile platforms and semiconductor solutions with even stronger capabilities to create customer value and continue to deliver rapid innovation.”

This new joint venture will have its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and each parent company will provide four directors to the board. Carl-Henric Svanberg is to be the chairman of the board of the new entity with Carlo Bozotti acting as vice chairman. The venture will also get assets from both parent companies. Subject to the necessary regulatory approval, the integration will be as immediate as possible, giving the new company the opportunity of climbing up the chipset league table very quickly indeed.

How the other established chipset combatants react should be an interesting spectacle. Chip vendor Freescale (spun off from Motorola four years ago) has joined the LiMo Foundation, the open standard collective for mobile Linux.