The football worldcup – coming to a mobile near you

Not that I am the greatest football fan of all times but a recent entry in Christian’s blog has caught my interest: Yahoo has launched a mobile version of their football world cup coverage site and seems to be the official partner of the Fifa. Check it out at the Fifa web page. There’s a link leading to information how to access the mobile site in the middle of their home page. For those of you not living in one of the countries where they offer a free SMS with the link, point your mobile browser to

There’s lots of content on the mobile site already and you can register for sweets like free SMS alerts on goals when your favourite team is playing. Looks like Yahoo sees this as a good opportunity to get people interested in the mobile web and of course what Yahoo is doing in this domain. With all the media hype around the world cup and people being so excited I tend to agree.

I haven’t seen too many mobile offerings for the last Winter Olympics (but I have to admit I didn’t really look for them). So is this the first time such a world wide event also get’s some world wide and free (to what an extend we will see) coverage on the mobile web? I wished there was a similar offer to keep track of what’s going on in Formula 1.

So here we are right in the battle between content providers such as Yahoo and mobile operators to get the attention of mobile users. Let’s see who does a better job. I’ve quickly checked if my home operator (Vodafone Germany) is offering anything similar and how it compares. Looks like they also offer free Goal alerts via SMS but beyond that I didn’t see much. Let’s see how it develops.

Global GSM and European UMTS Rollout Progress

While having visited a colleague in his office yesterday I saw an interesting global map on the wall showing the current global GSM rollout status. The map was different from all other maps I’ve previously seen as countries which adopted GSM technology were not completely filled with a color marking them as "covered". Instead, the map showed the detailed coverage status in each country. The map together with even more detailed continental maps can be found at

Here are some of my personal observations which quite surprised me:

The U.S.: When I last checked two or three years ago, GSM coverage in the U.S. was patchy at best. I still remember checking on Texas and finding an almost empty map. Quite a different picture now.

South America: Except for the rain forests, the continent is well covered with GSM now.

3G Rollout in Europe: The map gives quite a mixed picture varying from country to country. While the UMTS rollout seems to be quite advanced in some countries, there are lots of ‘GSM’ only areas in other countries:

Germany, U.K., Ireland, Sweden, Austria: These countries seem to be pretty well covered with 3G already. I can confirm this for Germany at least where Vodafone has dedicated coverage even in small villages (<5000 people). Nevertheless, it’s still patchy on the countryside. Same goes for Austria.

France: Quite disappointing, the green "GSM only" areas are still substantial. The map seems to be quite accurate as it compares quite well to the official map of Orange, France that can be found here.

Italy: This one is strange, only a couple of yellow "UMTS" patches here and there. But I don’t think the data is up to date in this case as Italy was one of the first countries deploying UMTS and the current Wikipedia entry on Vodafone Italy says that 70% of the population are now covered by UMTS. I tried to find coverage maps on and but it didn’t find any. Is my Italian so bad? If somebody sees maps, please tell me. The only info I found was on On this page you can select you city and a database lookup reveals if there is coverage or not. No maps though… However, many cities I tried which were not covered on the map came back as UMTS covered.

Finland: Another strange case. The land of Nokia, the land of mobile phones and almost no UMTS areas on the map!? Can this really be!? Some of my Finnish readers, please check and comment. A link to a coverage map of a Finnish operator would also be nice…

Offshore: Also take a closer look at the GSM coverage spots in the North sea. They seem to be drilling platforms! Cool!

How the Nokia N80 handles WLAN

Up until now not much is known about how applications on the N80 will be able to use the built in wireless LAN capabilities. When checking the Nokia website today, I saw that the N80 manual can now be downloaded from this link. So I rushed to take a closer look to see if it sheds some light on this topic. And indeed it does!

Basically, the manual says that the use of WLAN is transparent for an application on the phone. Just like for a data connection via GPRS and UMTS, a new access point profile can be created to enter the settings of how to communicate via a WLAN network. Several profiles can be created if different WLAN networks are used, e.g. at home, at work and in public. In an application, a WLAN profile is selected from the already known list of access points that pops up when an application wants to access the network and no default access point has been configured in the application. Instead of only GPRS and UMTS connections the list can now also contain WLAN connections. Quite elegant, it’s completely transparent!

The manual also says that one access point profile can be used by several applications simultaneously. Again, this already works today for GPRS and UMTS connections when two programs such as the browser and the eMail program are used to communicate with the network at the same time.

And here comes the most important part concerning the simultaneous use of the phone in the GSM/UMTS network and WLAN. I quote from the manual on page 14: "You can use wireless LAN during a voice call or when packet data is active". That’s really great news and means that while at home, for example, the phone can be used for incoming (and outgoing) cellular calls simultaneously with an activated VoIP client (SIP, Skype…) via wireless lan.

It looks like my dream of a unified phone at home is close to becoming a reality! I can hardly wait using the Skype client on the phone to call friends while lying on the couch while not missing incoming cellular calls. Hurry up, Skype! Oh, and by the way, don’t forget to support the built in camera 🙂

SIP Update 1: Jukka left a comment that there’s already a built in SIP client in the N80. I completely missed that when browsing for the wireless LAN details in the manual. Indeed, the manual shortly describes that there’s a new menu where to enter the settings for the SIP client and that SIP addresses can now be part of a phone book entry. Would be interesting what can be configured but the manual doesn’t say. So Skype’s got another reason for hurrying up, the competition is already there!

SIP Update 2: The topic keeps developing: Too bad I don’t have an N80 yet so I have to rely on the sparse technical information in the manual. After some more digging I found out that the included SIP client seems to be closely tied into the standard voice call feature. The SIP functionality can be used during a standard voice call to establish a video sharing session via SIP in a packet bearer. While the feature is quite nice it’s not yet what I need to call someboday via VoIP over the WLAN functionality while being at home.

SIP Update 3: A reader has noticed that Nokia is about to release a major software update for the N80 called the N80i, or Internet Edition, whith some additional VoIP capabilities: From the press release: "The VoIP framework (based on the SIP protocol) is integrated into the
Nokia user interface, and the Nokia N80 Internet Edition is allows for
downloading compatible third party internet call applications.". One step closer but we still need a 3rd party client.

Communication Systems for the Mobile Information Society: It’s Almost Ready

I am always amazed of how much fine tuning goes into the production of a book. I delivered the manuscript at the end of January and since then it has been proof-read, the layout has been done and I’ve received the page proofs for final verification. Almost ready for production now. This weekend I’ve sent the final corrections of the page proofs back to the company that does the layout. For those of you who are curious, the book is already listed at Amazon and the listing contains the back cover text which gives some details about the content. Their publishing date of September is a little bit conservative… It should be out much sooner. I’ll keep you posted.

Vodafone 3G Rollout Progress


It’s interesting to see how Vodafone in Germany continues with their 3G rollout. Last year in May I went to their website and took a snapshot of their coverage map of south western Germany. As you can see on picture one, most areas are blue (GSM coverage) with some areas red (UMTS coverage). One year later (April 2006) I’ve taken another snapshot of their coverage map which is shown in the second picture. The red areas representing UMTS coverage have increased by quite a bit. Even small towns with less than 2000 people are now very well covered. Let’s see how it looks like in a year from now.

Nokia Open Studio: Webcast Now Available

Many people have reported from the recent introduction of three new Nokia phones in Berlin. What’s even more exciting for me than this is that the whole event was recorded and is now available via webcast. To view the webcast, click on ‘webcast’ in the top right corner of the linked page.

I like presentations like this which do not push the products too plainly but rather the ideas behind them. Here are the main buzzwords that were used throughout the presentation and what I think about them:

  • "Multi Radio Device" to indicate that some of the NSeries phones (N80, N93) now include WiFi on top of GSM, EDGE, UMTS and Bluetooth to share information, interact with other people and upload and download content such as videos, music, etc. For me including Wifi in the mobile phone will open up completely new dimensions (see for example my post about the personal mobile web server) as the ‘phone’ is not longer an isolated device but becomes a part of the network at home.
  • "Multimedia Computer": Nokia see their Nseries products not as ‘phones’ anymore but as ‘multimedia computers’. The telephony functionality is just one of the many functions. They use the word computer to indicate that NSeries phones are smartphones with many applications. Most important of all, they are programmable and thus not rigid like other multimedia devices such as digital cameras or camcorders. Personally I haven’t yet gotten used to this term. For me a computer is still something you don’t carry around with you all the time. Well, maybe that is part of the transformation process.
  • "Citizen Journalism": Justin Dyche of the BBC did an impressive presentation of how the news media today gets pictures and videos from events just minutes after they’ve happened, much faster then they can be there themselves. He also talked about how the BBC makes use of 3G phones and networks to be there first.
  • Content Creation by the User: While citizen journalism described above is a many (citizen) to few (news organizations) application, User Content Creation on the mobile phone for others goes one step further and many people create content for many others.
  • 3rd Party Applications: While in the past Nokia mainly focused like most others to push their own brand it seems that for the multimedia age and the ‘multimedia computer’ they have changed tactics and realized that a rich ecosystem of applications is the path to success. So the presentation was full of talk about 3rd party applications that run on Nokia Nseries phones (sorry for using the ‘p’ word again, it’s still to deeply embedded within me…) like for example a native Flickr Application that will come prepackaged with the new phones and how important this is. Indeed, I have to agree with them, this is the main fact that differentiates a ‘multimedia computer’ from other mobile multimedia devices today. Also, it opens the platform for applications that do not even exist when the phones are first shipped.

For me, the key is the device’s ability to communicate with the Internet. Without that link, the multimedia computer is just another fancy gadget in line with mobile cameras and gameboys. To me, Nokia’s multimedia and communication strategy makes a lot of sense. Can’t wait to get an N80 or N93 in my hands, with hopefully a bundle of extra software on top of what’s already there today.

I am well aware that such shows are marketing events run by marketing people. However, I just wonder how close marketing, R&D and design work together to produce such a show and in creating new products in general!? I am a strong advocate in letting ideas flow between those groups. Having a strong R&D background I don’t really want to work in marketing which is only focused on selling the product. Marketing for me also means to listen to customers, have your own ideas, and be in constant communication with design and R&D to let ideas flow in all directions. I wonder how much of this is done in Nokia?

So you guys from Nokia and S60: How about some comments or trackbacks?

Muni Wifi: How many Access Points are necessary to cover a city?

There’s not a single day in which I do not read about Municipal Wifi on a web site or blog. However, most do not say how many access points are required for city wide coverage and how that compares to cellular networks that offer similar services. Maybe I can add some numbers here.

Dailywireless has recently featured an interesting article on Muni Wireless in Annapolis and San Francisco. In this article they state that about 25 access points are required per square mile. If you do the maths you end up with one access point about every 300 meters. That sounds realistic as I can imagine that communication between access points over 300 meters without directional antennas in the open is possible. Communication between the nodes is required for the meshed network architecture most Muni Wifi projects use in order to minimize the number of fixed line Internet connections required.

25 doesn’t sound like a lot at first. However, a square mile is not much either. The article goes on to say that San Fransisco’s Muni Wifi network will cover 54 square miles. With 25 access points per square mile as described in the blog above, 1.350 access points need to be distributed in an area of 7.5 x 7.5 miles.

Let’s compare this number to the number of cellular towers of a UMTS/HSDPA or CDMA/1xEV-DO network required for the same area: Let’s say such a network operator aims for reasonable indoor coverage (which by the way the Wifi Muni network can not do with an access point every 300m). In such a configuration, the cell radius would be about one mile. This gives you a coverage area of a single base station of around three square miles, or 3 times 25 = 75 wireless LAN access points. 75 that’s quite a ratio. For a 54 square mile area, this would result in 18 cellular sites vs 1.350 wireless lan access points. I know, a wireless lan access point is a lot cheaper than a cellular base station but it has to be a lot cheaper to make up for this. (Note: Since my initial posting I changed this paragraph twice to take the good information given in the comments below into account. Thanks for posting!)

Looks like these numbers are no fiction. Take a look at this article about the Wifi Network in Taipei. It says they will (or already have?) distribute(d) 10.000 Wifi access points in the city. Quite a challenge!

From a consumer perspective I hope there will be enough competition to have a positive effect on prices.

What can we learn from Japanese FOMA phones?

Over the last few days, I’ve had an interesting discussion with Denis of Wapreview on mobile phone experiences during his recent trip to Japan. There are a number of very interesting links in the blog entry as well, including one to download the English manual of the NEC N902i, which seems to be a quite popular phone in Japan. I had a look through the manual to see what kind of functionality it offers that I haven’t
seen so far on phones in Europe or in the U.S. and found a number of quite interesting features.

Camera with stabilization:
The built in 4 mega pixel camera has an auto focus, digital (only) zoom, and a stabilization/anti shake feature.

Lock phone: In case your phone gets stolen you can lock the phone from a payphone or any other phone. This is done by calling the phone a certain number of times within a certain time frame. I wonder why I haven’t seen this one before, it’s so simple to implement. Does NEC hold a patent on this one and it’s unaffordable to license it?

Bar Code Reader: A hot topic in the blogsphere. It looks like in Japan this is already used very much in everyday life. Bar codes (one and two dimensional) are scanned with the camera and can contain contact addresses and phone numbers to be put into the phone book, eMail addresses and URLs that can be bookmarked or used to go directly to a page. Wap review mentions that these bar codes are at many places in Japan these days, including posters and business cards. I wonder how long it takes for this to become popular in Europe and elsewhere!? A typical critical mass problem.

Remote Monitoring: Incoming video calls from pre-programmed numbers can be accepted automatically (auto answer).

Change between Voice and Video Call: A call can be started as a
voice call and upgraded to a video call later on (by the calling party
only). An interesting feature, I don’t think other UMTS networks and
phones support this today!?

Mobile Wallet (FeliCa): A chip on the back of the phone can be used for contact less micro payment, e.g. for train tickets. The chip also communicates with the phone where an application can used to see transaction / current balance, etc.  The chip can also be used to receive text information like for example phone book entries or coupons in conjunction with the application on the mobile phone.

Text Scanner: The camera can be used to make pictures of business cards, URLs, mail addresses and free memos. Once the picture is taken the phone scans the picture and extracts the information for the phone book, the browser etc. Cool for business cards without a 2 dimensional bar code 🙂

Speech output of Text: The phone can read eMails to the user (I wonder how that sounds like)

So Nokia’s, Motorola’s and Sony-Ericsson’s of this world, it’s time to play catch up ! (and to open your pockets for license payments?)