A Foolish Week of Telecom

Much of the world has become saturated with mobile devices. In many places there are more phones than people. However, emerging-market countries aren't at that point yet, but eventually low handset prices will change things.

In the meantime, mobile operators are working like mad to connect their wireless networks to any and every possible device they possibly can, and not just phones, phablets, tablets, iWatches, or Google Glasses.

So, it should not be surprising that Verizon's (NYSE: VZ  ) longtime contract with General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) as the network supplier for GM's OnStar service had become targeted by a competitor.

AT&T (NYSE: T  ) finally separated GM and Verizon, partners since the 1990s. Starting with the 2015 model year, AT&T will speed up OnStar connections when it hooks that service up with its 4G LTE network.

GM's vice chairman Steve Girsky told an audience at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, "People may question the need [for connected car services] at first ... but it doesn't take long [for] people to move from 'I'll never need that', to 'I can't live without it.'"

Thinking outside the car
Ford (NYSE: F  ) , on the other hand, doesn't think that locking a car into a particular wireless technology is a smart idea.

"The last thing we want to do is take this smartphone thing that updates every 12-18 months and bolt it into a car with a lifecycle of at least 10 years," said Ford's global director of Connected Services Solutions, Doug VanDagen, at a FierceWireless event at the Mobile World Congress.

VanDagen also pointed out that why should people who are already paying for a data connection for their phones have to pay a second fee to access their networks in their cars?

If you can't outsmart 'em, undersell 'em
Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) brought four new phones to show off to crowds at the Mobile World Congress. But none of them were in the top-of-the-line, mind-blowing, do-everything-but-walk-the-dog-for-you category. And only two of them are so-called smartphones.

What makes these phones stand out are their retail prices. Nokia's Lumia 720 and 520 both run Windows Phone 8, but at $331 and $185 respectively, they are much more affordable than Nokia's top of the line 4G LTE Lumia 920, which was introduced last year at $836.

The other two phones are the 301, a feature phone that can stream video and costs $86, and the 105, which can make calls, text, has a radio, and can be used as a flashlight -- and which will retail for about $18.

Guess which phone one industry watcher thought was the show stopper?

Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis, told Mobile Tech Today it was the Nokia 105 that got his heart going.

"It's designed for places like sub-Saharan Africa, India and China, where people are looking for the absolute lowest cost," he said. "I thought it was, quite frankly, the most exciting product at the show."

Gimme five
Hewlett-Packard
was cleaning out its attic the other day and guess what it found? The last remnant of its $1.2 billion investment in Palm -- the Palm webOS operating system.

HP's ill-advised purchase of Palm had been pretty much written off by now, but apparently the Palm OS still has some value and life left in it.

LG Electronics bought the Palm OS from HP -- at an undisclosed price -- and plans to use it in their smart TVs. LG will also move some webOS staff into its Silicon Valley research and development facility.

You can say that again
A "transient roamer" is not a redundancy in the wireless world. It refers to mobile users avoiding their own networks' roaming options when traveling. Transient roamers would rather pay for Wi-Fi hot spots or purchase SIM cards than pay conventional roaming charges.

But that roaming revenue being lost by the network providers is being scooped up by others.

Syniverse, a telecommunications services company, found that transient roamers spent more than $17 billion in 2012 as they sought alternative roaming connections.

TRs, let's call them, spent $8.7 billion on hotel Wi-Fi, $3.9 billion at other paid Wi-Fi hotspots, about $225 million on in-flight Wi-Fi, and $4.8 billion for local SIM cards.

Coming proxy fight
MetroPCS  (NYSE: TMUS  ) is supposed to merge with T-Mobile USA sometime this spring -- if it can get enough shareholders on board to approve the deal.

MetroPCS announced a special stockholders' meeting planned for March 28 in Richardson, Texas, to vote on the proposal. But at least one shareholder has launched a campaign to nix the deal, saying that MetroPCS shareholders should have a greater share of the new company formed.

Texting: "a linguistic miracle happening right under our noses"
That is the opinion of Columbia linguistics professor John McWhorter, expressed at the TED conference in Long Beach, Calif.

"Texting is fingered speech," he said. "Now we can write the way we talk."

McWhorter called it "a whole new language," and being able to speak more than one language is good for the brain.

LOL.

What's next for Nokia?
Nokia's been struggling in a world of Apple and Android smartphone dominance. However, the company has banked its future on its next generation of Windows smartphones. Motley Fool analyst Charly Travers has created a new premium report that digs into both the opportunities and risks facing Nokia to help investors decide if the company is a buy or sell. To get started, simply click here now.


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