• Ross Fadner, Nov 26, 2007, 11:15 AM
  • The (Potential) Opening Of The Wireless MarketBusinessWeek BusinessWeek profiles a trio of would-be wholesale wireless network providers that aim to compete with the likes of Google, Apple and the giant telecoms in the upcoming wireless spectrum auction this January. TerreStar, Frontline and Mobile Satellite Ventures have all been in talks with the Federal Communications Commission about their intention to bid in the upcoming auction, which could fetch as much as $15 billion, according to BusinessWeek. The auction will be one of the most closely scrutinized in FCC history, because of the rules requiring that one portion of the spectrum be free to be leased wholesale and the devices operating under the network be open.

    Currently, large cellular carriers like AT&T operate closed wireless networks, which is why handset makers like Apple have to strike exclusive agreements with them instead of selling their products to an open market. But that could now change, thanks to the new auction rules. The three wireless startups aim to win the open network auction and then lease the spectrum to virtually anyone--without exercising control over the content--for cheaper prices than the big telecoms currently charge. "Anyone" includes resellers, mobile virtual network operators, hardware makers that want to sell direct to consumers without using a service provider, and even the carriers themselves. Google, for example, could lease their spectrum to provide nationwide access to its new mobile initiative, Android. While Frontline, TerreStar and Mobile Satellite Ventures intend to enter the wholesale business, they also plan to offer mobile plans of their own. Read the whole story...
  • EU Vows To Review Targeted AdvertisingReuters Targeted advertising is once again under the microscope after the European Union's regulators vowed to review recent developments in the industry. "This is a very hot topic that can be expected to be part of our work program next year," Gabriele Loewnau, a senior legal adviser for the German Federal Commissioner for Data Protection, told Reuters. Recommendations from the so-called Article 29 Working Party, the EU's advisory arm on data protection, have spurred the European Commission to formally review issues like Google's proposed acquisition of DoubleClick, an antitrust investigation that is still ongoing.

    It seems that every couple of years a new Web privacy issue surfaces. This year it's all about the targeting tactics deployed by Internet ad networks, which have been collecting user data to serve targeted advertising for more than a decade. Now that important players like DoubleClick and Atlas DMT have been acquired by the likes of Google and MSN, regulators are concerned that the combined companies would collect too much information from users, compromising their privacy.

    For the most part, the privacy backlash comes at the urging of consumer watchdog groups claiming that Web users don't understand ad network targeting practices. However, in some cases, savvier Web users have taken action. The social network Facebook has drawn the ire of its users with a new product recommendation system that they claim infringes on their privacy. More than 13,000 Facebook users have signed a petition protesting the tactic, which the company calls Beacon. Read the whole story...
  • Facebook, ABC Strike Political PartnershipNew York Times The social network Facebook may be turning itself into something of a media hub--having struck a partnership with ABC News that allows Facebook users to electronically follow political news through a new "U.S. politics" category that allows users to follow ABC reporters, view reports and video and participate in polls and debates. The two companies also announced that they would be jointly sponsoring the upcoming Democratic and Republican presidential debates in New Hampshire.

    The New York Times says the partnership is yet another attempt by media companies to take advantage of Facebook's user base, which is now 56 million and growing. Companies like the Times, the Washington Post and other newspapers and Web publishers have produced special pages for following politics on Facebook, but ABC's will be the broadest initiative yet. For example, users will now be able to read reporters' stories and respond privately or publicly on their profiles, instead of posting to a blog or emailing them. According to the report, no money changed hands in the deal.

    "There are debates going on at all times within Facebook," David Westin, the president of ABC News, said. "This allows us to participate in those debates, both by providing information and by learning from the users." Read the whole story...
  • The Sorry State Of The Mobile WebNew York Times Small gains have been made recently, but the mobile Web still has a long, long way to go, says The New York Times' Michael Fitzgerald. Apple's iPhone is encouraging, and so is Google's Open Handset Alliance--which allows developers to make programs for Google's operating software, Android--but for the most part, companies are offering mobile services that people just don't use. According to Fitzgerald, "disaster" is "lurking like your next dropped call."

    Ominously, the 3G network, a high-speed cellular data network, was recently branded "a failure" at a recent mobile industry conference. That's bad news, since 3G represents a collective and costly effort to bring high-speed Internet to cell phones. Why is it a failure? Rethink Research analyst Caroline Gabriel says that data (or mobile Web usage) would make up only 12 percent of average revenue per user in 2007--far below the expected 50 percent. The Yankee Group, another tech industry research firm, concurs, saying that just 13 percent of cell phone users in North America use their phones to surf the Web more than once a month. Meanwhile, 70 percent of PC owners use the Internet every day.

    "The user experience has been a disaster," says Tony Davis, managing partner of Brightspark, a Toronto area technology VC. For one thing, the mobile Web is hard to use on many phones--simply finding a place to type in a Web address can be difficult. The content also doesn't look very good. But innovations are coming: Google's Android is on the horizon and similar open initiatives may spell the end of control over the mobile Web by the carriers. The only question is, when? Read the whole story...
  • Facebook's Dangerous Data GameCalacanis.com More than 13,000 Facebook users have signed a petition against the new advertising practices laid out by the company a few weeks ago. An opt-out recommendation system that sends notices to users' friends about the products and services they buy is among the ad "innovations" that have been identified by the group as compromising user privacy. Blogger/Web entrepreneur Jason Calacanis calls the new advertising tools "extremely innovative, extremely rude, extremely helpful, and extremely disconcerting."

    For one thing, he says, Facebook is now collecting and republishing user data "on a level not before seen by users." Worse, the company is giving advertisers access to their information while taking it out of their control. That control, he points out, is the foundation on which Facebook's purported $15 billion valuation has been built. Simply put, Facebook's Social Ads is a big win for advertisers and a big loss for consumers.

    Calacanis conducts an experiment using the popular video game "Guitar Hero." Any user that says in their profile that he or she likes "Guitar Hero" could have that information sold to marketers. "Ask yourself: Did you fill out your profile in order to be sold to marketers?" No, you simply said that you "liked" "Guitar Hero," not that you wanted "Guitar Hero" ads served to you. This amounts to a data sale on a "false pretense," which is not good for a company that built its empire on trust. Read the whole story...