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RIM – the bleak midwinter

The Informer spoke to Santa Claus this week and the good news is that, if you want a Blackberry 10 device for Christmas, you should be able to get one. The bad news is that you’ll have to wait until Christmas 2012. Research In Motion’s Annus Horribilis kept on delivering right unto the death, with the firm this week reporting a 71 per cent drop in net profit for its financial Q3, and revealing that its latest range of devices – the Blackberry 10 suite of products – will not be available until late next year.

The phones were originally slated for delivery in the first quarter of 2012, but they’re plain not ready, according to the firm’s co-CEOs, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, because of delays in chipset availability. The whole concept of co-CEOs reeks of internal strife and the two revealed that they would be paid an annual salary of just one dollar in recognition of the firm’s travails.

Vodafone’s group head of marketing for terminals, Peter Becker-Pennrich, offered an unsentimental assessment of the firm’s prospects and leadership recently, when he told Telecoms.com: “If you have strong leaders who take credit for taking  company to where it is now, they really struggle to see that they shouldn’t be the ones who take it further forward. We’ve seen the same thing with Motorola, we’ve seen it with Nokia and now we’re seeing it with RIM. I’m not sure whether RIM entirely understand the magnitude of the problem that they have. I don’t think it has completely sunk in.”

Quarterly profit of $ 265 million looks bleak in comparison to a figure of $ 911m for the same quarter in 2010 and it’s anyone’s guess what that number will be in a year’s time. Such a lengthy delay in the new devices’ availability could be disastrous for RIM, with the iPhone 5, further product from the rejuvenated Nokia/Microsoft pairing and undoubted advances from the Android camp sure to fill the gap between now and late 2012. It might not be a matter of ‘when’ so much as ‘if’.

It’s pretty cold in Canada right now – and in London – but it’s warmer in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, the new fiefdom of Ericsson CTO Hakan Eriksson. From February next year, Eriksson – a company lifer with 25 years notched up, the last nine as CTO – will be the head of the firm’s operations in the three southern hemisphere markets.

It’s hardly what you might call a sideways move, so the only question is whether it’s a reward for time served, or an admonishment for some unspecified misdemeanour. Almost certainly it’s the former; Eriksson has an Aussie wife, perhaps making him one of the few Swedes familiar with the rules of cricket, and in a statement said that he had long harboured a desire to move closer to the region.

It will be a big change in pace as he swaps responsibility for global technology leadership and a Silicon Valley uniform of khakis and polo shirts for a regional market where total population is some distance below 30 million and a pair of thongs.

In other personnel news, former CEO of Safaricom, Michael Joseph, has joined Vodafone to head up a new mobile payment unit. Under Joseph’s leadership, Safaricom famously developed and launched the genre-defining M-Pesa mobile payment scheme in Kenya. Joseph told UK broadsheet the Telegraph that Vodafone’s plans are focussed on the Indian market.

Australian carrier Telstra announced this week that it has secured new operating licences in Singapore and Japan, enabling the expansion of its regional ambition. The company will deliver services directly to customers in both markets, rather than teaming up with local partners, as its licences allow it to own infrastructure facilities in each of the countries.

In Singapore, Telstra can own and operate voice and data networks, systems and facilities infrastructure within the country, after it secured a ‘Facilities Based Operator’ licence offered by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore. The licence will also allow Telstra to build the local backbone required to support its plans for new cable submarine capacity to Singapore.

It is now also able to own and operate large scale telecoms circuits and facilities in multiple sites in Japan, after Telstra Japan K.K., has been approved by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications for a ‘Registration Type’ licence.

The company was also recently awarded three licences in India, to provide customers with international long-distance telecommunications and ISP services. Within the next six months, it will begin offering services in seven cities with a network tailored to suit the individual needs of local business.

“For international customers, Telstra will now have greater control over its services. Specifically customers will enjoy access to a more comprehensive suite of connectivity and managed services, better network performance, complete monitoring, local contract billing capabilities, and in-country service centre support,” said Tarek Robbiati, group managing director for Telstra International Group.

Telstra CEO David Thodey recently told delegates at an event in Melbourne that the operator no longer sees itself as an Australian company, and wants to begin being recognised as part of the Asia community.

Staying with the regional theme, Nokia Siemens Networks – which  no doubt would prefer to be recognised for something other than its current weight loss programme – announced this week that it is deploying circuit switched fallback to enable voice services for Japanese carrier KDDI, which is planning to launch LTE by the end of 2012.

But it also announced that it is selling its broadband access unit to US firm Adtran. The deal, which is expected to close by April 2012, will see 400 NSN staff move over to Adtran. This is in addition to the 360 heads moving over to Dragonwave, which bought NSN’s microwave business, and the 300 workers off to NewNet Communication Technologies, which is taking a gamble on the firm’s WiMAX unit. All of which are on top of the 17,000 cuts announced in November.

There’s not a great deal left in the global WiMAX pot, as indicated by historical standard bearer Clearwire’s gradual shift to LTE. Clearwire is a financially thirsty organisation and so it was with a light heart that the firm announced this week that it has managed to squeeze $ 715.5m dollars from new and existing shareholders to fund its LTE deployment.

A public offering launched earlier this month pulled in $ 384.1m, while shareholder Sprint has purchased a bunch more shares, bringing in the remainder of the haul.

Once upon a time Google was a backer of the Clearwire plan, but it withdrew to a discreet distance by opting not to invest further in 2009. This week Google’s tabled acquisition of Motorola’s handset business hit a minor obstacle, as the European Commission suspended its review of the deal. An EC spokesperson confirmed to Telecoms.com that it “needs certain documents from Google that are essential to its evaluation of the transaction”.

The EC was set to make a decision on Google’s bid to acquire the business on January 10, but has suspended that deadline until it receives the necessary information. Upon receiving it, it will re-start the clock and publish a new Phase I deadline on its website.

Google responded to the news claiming the request for more information was routine. “We’re confident the commission will conclude that this acquisition is good for competition and we’ll be working closely and cooperatively with them as they continue their review,” a Google spokesperson told Telecoms.com.

And that’s about it for this week – and this year – as the Informer is putting his feet up for Christmas.

The Informer would like to wish all of our readers on Telecoms.com a happy and prosperous close to 2011, overly optimistic as that may be in some cases.

Hope you all have a decent break, and a happy new year.

Take care

The Informer

telecoms.com – telecoms industry news, analysis and opinion

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