Re:Viewing 2002 - Mobile and wireless (Part 1)

From Taliban to mobile ban
Written by Tony Hallett, Contributor

From Taliban to mobile ban

It was the year the first mobile network came to Afghanistan, the year many scrambled for curbs on phoning while at the wheel, and the year the inventor of the mobile phone - and a few others besides - declared 3G dead. Who were the winners in all things mobile, wireless and handheld? Tony Hallett looks back...

It is easy to exit 2002 disheartened by so much that happened in mobile. Plenty of people lost their jobs, companies struggled and 3G was declared dead in the water by some.

But let's not lose sight of the progress across what is still arguably the biggest tech success story of the past decade. For every too-close-to-home 3G snag there have been countless PDA advances, wireless LAN roll outs, exciting new mobile applications and success stories - albeit in Asia and even the US.

The year started with bad news. The main UK operators declared an end to the accepted wisdom of large handset subsidies and mobile phone-related crime hit mainstream headlines. The government urged the industry to make phone theft less attractive, and operators eventually responded with, by November, a database of phones, for one thing.

It didn't take long for some operators to admit what had been expected - the market pressures are focusing them to consider all types of temptations. Hutchison 3G and Virgin both admitted an interest in top shelf content and Nokia set up a luxury handset business, based in the UK.

That company's CEO, Jorma Ollila, celebrated 10 years at the helm of the most successful vendor in this industry but the area of content aggregation took a hit with the retrenchment of the mobile portal. Witness the demise of Sonera Zed, Vizzavi's problems and the hauling of Genie back into O2.

Novel uses for the increasingly ubiquitous mobile handset varied from the useful - contraception/fertility advice in Poland and biblical quotes in the Philippines - to the dangerous, like the Hong Kong surgeon caught on the phone while operating and the countless cases of driving while under the influence of cellphone.

Who were the big winners? One of them was RIM, the Canadian company behind the BlackBerry wireless email device. Phone retail supremo Charles Dunstone even went so far as to tell silicon.com that no other device had done as much to change his life since he first picked up a mobile phone. Ironically in many countries BlackBerrys run on GPRS networks, the same ones which aren't used enough by GPRS phone owners, according to the Carphone Warehouse boss.

RIM finished off the year inking licensing agreements with Nokia and Palm. With voice to be added to the tiny QWERTY units, its star looks set to carry on rising.

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