Verizon Adds City ID Tech From Cequint
By Monica Alleven
SAN FRANCISCO—Verizon Wireless was an early opponent to proposals for a wireless phone number directory. Now it can offer a version of caller ID that gives customers a clue as to who’s calling without giving out phone numbers.
Verizon Wireless is now offering City ID on the LG Voyager. It displays the city and state where an incoming phone number is registered. The announcement is another big win for application provider Cequint, which first launched it with Alltel Wireless.
“We’re thrilled to be working with Verizon and are continuing to see strong demand for City ID with the Voyager,” said Cequint CEO Rick Hennessey. “We appreciate Verizon’s commitment to innovation and their understanding that empowering subscribers isn’t just about next-generation services – it’s also about improving the daily voice experience with enhancements to the basics like Caller ID and voice mail.”
Hennessey and other Cequint executives in the past have described Cequint’s City ID as a simple solution to a complex problem. It addresses what they call the “mental gymnastics” that people go through when they see an incoming number. While the recipient of a call might look at an incoming number and area code to determine who might be calling, the display of the city and state can cut down on the guesswork. Even seeing a specific town in a large metro area can help narrow it down considerably, yet it’s not so intrusive as to invade someone’s privacy, they say.
The application is based on where a phone number was registered, so it won’t reconfigure the location for someone who has moved cross country and kept their same wireless phone number. But if a caller has told someone that they recently moved, that’s often enough for a recipient to decipher and figure out who’s calling.
Verizon Wireless customers purchasing the Voyager will receive a complimentary 15-day trial of the City ID application beginning with their first incoming call. After that, customers can subscribe to City ID for $1.99 monthly access per line. City ID comes preloaded on new Voyagers; customers with existing Voyagers can take their phones to a Verizon Wireless Communications Store to receive the free software update. Verizon Wireless said it expects to offer City ID on additional devices in the coming months.
Sprint Giving Free In-Store Product Training
By Evan Koblentz
Sprint Nextel will offer a cost-free, in-store smartphone training option called Ready Now, as a way to reduce the amount of returned phones and to improve its poor reputation for customer service.
As many as 21% of smartphone buyers come back to the store to return the phone or to seek help in setting it up and learning to use it, the nation’s #3 mobile carrier said.
Customers can wait for a trainer when they purchase a smartphone, or they can schedule an appointment in person or through Sprint.com, officials said.
Initially the program is only in Sprint-owned stores and soon it will be available in selected independent stores as well.
Appointments can last about an hour, an employee at the Sprint store in Rockaway, N.J., said this morning.
Sprint hired extra employees for every store to handle the workload. The offer applies to anything that customers buy, not just smartphones, said Kim Dixon, vice president of retail.
“We’re really serious about changing,” she said.
Verizon Expands Audio Options
By Wireless Week Staff
Verizon Wireless announced a variety of mobile content options at the CTIA Wireless show in San Francisco today.
Options include customized audio recording features and online news.
In the audio features, customers can record any sound and then use it as a ringtone. The technology uses Sonic Boom’s ToneMaker software and costs $3.99 per month. Customers can also edit their recordings and add sound effects for $2.49 per month. A third sound option, called Make-UR-Tone, lets customers create ringtones specifically by starting with a music clip from the Verizon catalog, for $3.49.
Verizon also announced m.vast.com which lets users share mobile video clips, including from YouTube. It works on phones with HTML browsers such as the LG Dare. More supported devices with be announced soon, the carrier said. Technology for this feature comes from Buzzwire and will cost $15 per month or $1.99 per megabyte.
For customers who prefer reading the news, Verizon now is partnering with The New York Times. That content is cost-free, officials said.
Also new is a feature called Ringback Buddies, which is a Facebook application for purchasing and managing ringback sounds. (A ringback is what callers hear when they’re waiting for you to answer the phone.) Ringbacks cost $1.99 per year and $0.99 per month when using the new application.
Mobile Health Initiative Expands
By Brad Smith
The United Nations Foundation has been pioneering a mobile health (mHealth) initiative in 11 African nations, using mobile devices and wireless access for such things as aiding in the immunization of children against measles. The program has been so successful that the foundation and its partner, Vodafone Group Foundation, now plans to broaden the initiative to more than 20 sub-Saharan countries by the end of the year.
Mitul Shah, senior director of technology partnerships at the U.N. Foundation, said the initiative has shown to be effective in delivering health care in remote and resource-poor environments through the quick and efficient collection of health data. Wireless devices can help health-care workers in a sort of early warning system for epidemics, while also tracking other health data, he said.
Other agencies participating in the Mobile Health for Development program include the World Health Organization, DataDyne.org and ministries of health in the countries. DataDyne.org developed an open-source program, EpiSurveyor, for gathering health data on mobile devices.
Shah said the mHealth program started in 2006 with pilots in Kenya and Zambia. In Kenya, health officials used the EpiSurveyor technology to investigate and track a polio outbreak. In Zambia, EpiSurveyor was used to track the coverage rate of a measles vaccination program, ensuring that all children were vaccinated.
The countries expected to be included n the mHealth initiative by the end of 2008 include Benin, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda, Botswana, Burundi, Chad, Eritrea, Gabon, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Togo.
SocialLife Puts Sites in One Place
By Monica Alleven
SAN FRANCISCO–Verizon Wireless wants to make it easier for its social networking customers. Today, it announced 1-stop access to multiple sites through SocialLife.
Using technology from Intercasting, SocialLife brings together various social networking sites, including MySpace, in one application. Other sites include AsianAve, BlackPlanet, Faith Base, GLEE, LiveJournal, MiGente, Photobucket, Rabble and MTV Tr3s.
The application integrates the camera on a customer’s wireless phone as well, so pictures can be taken within the application and uploaded with one click to a community site. Photos also can be shared with friends in the phone’s address book.
SocialLife can be found in the Community section of Get It Now-enabled phones or under the Browse & Download section of the Media Center on some handsets. The application is available for $1.49 monthly access. Without an unlimited data feature, airtime or megabyte charges may apply, depending on the customer’s plan.
Wireless Modem Binder Now Available
By Evan Koblentz
To help with temporary high-speed communications, Mushroom Networks today announced PortaBella, a device which aggregates multiple wireless network connections.
The hardware can bind 5 cellular data cards with USB connections, regardless of what brand, service, or type of cards are used, by taking advantage of regular IP networking techniques to split and reassemble data. It costs $1,595 and is available now.
Traffic analysis software is included for free. Options include a virtual leased line module and premium support.
Modem teaming is not a new idea. Such technology was available in the past for slow dial-up modems as a way to increase speed before always-on connections became popular and affordable. However, with modern wireless connections, binding systems sometimes require back-end hardware – Mushroom’s version does not, Akin said.
Future versions of the device will be designed for vertical markets and for new wireless technologies such as LTE and WiMAX, Mushroom’s co-founder and CEO H. Cahit Akin said. The company is also looking to partner with resellers and carriers, he added.
Mushroom Networks formed in 2004 and obtained funding in a seed round and a Round A. The amounts and investors are not disclosed.
State Commissioners in Wireless Committee
By Wireless Week Staff
State utility commissioners established a new committee that will propose national consumer protection standards for wireless phone service, to be shared with Congress for consideration as possible legislation, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) said.
The plan originated last month as part of a series of NARUC resolutions.
The Ad Hoc Committee on National Wireless Consumer Protection Standards will include 16 state regulators and will be chaired by Commissioner John Burke of Vermont.
The committee is tasked with vetting potential new standards and then reporting back to Congress and to all stakeholders.
Further details are expected to be announced at NARUC’s convention in November.
A list of members is posted here.
Aeris M2M Gets Alarmed
By Wireless Week Staff
Machine-to-machine network operator Aeris Communications announced this week that its network will be part of RACO Manufacturing and Engineering Co.’s alarm detection and notification systems.
RACO’s service, AlarmAgent.com, lets customers log in from a Web browser to monitor activity and to manage alerts. Sensors using Aeris’ network can provide real-time data feedback, the companies said.
FirstNews Briefs for September 9, 2008
Companies in the News: WiChorus, Juniper Networks, Glu Mobile, DreamWorks, Skyworks Solutions, Ember, Telegenesis, Cellular South
• An Apple iPhone customer in New Jersey filed the third known lawsuit because of the smartphone’s problems with reception and software reliability. The case is filed in U.S. District Court and seeks compensation and punitive damages.
• WiChorus said it completed interoperability testing between its gateway and Juniper Networks’ authentication, authorization and accounting server, with testing based on the WiMAX Forum’s specifications.
• Neotel will deploy mobile WiMAX in Macedonia using technology from Alvarion in the 3.5 GHz range.
• Glu Mobile announced an agreement with DreamWorks Animation SKG to develop and publish a mobile game to launch in conjunction with the March 2009 film release of “Monsters vs. Aliens.” The announcement marks the second business collaboration between Glu and DreamWorks. Glu is developing and publishing the mobile game for “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” which will launch worldwide in conjunction with the film’s U.S. premiere on Nov. 7.
• Telegesis said its ZigBee Pro module options are now shipping. Wireless tests were completed at National Technical Systems.
• Chip maker Skyworks Solutions and ZigBee specialist Ember are partnering to develop ZigBee front-end modules for specific applications.
• Cellular South hired David Miller as public relations manager.