A Foolish Week of Telecom


The executives at America's mobile phone duopoly, Verizon and AT&T, likely cringed at the administration's response to a We the People petition calling for a repeal of the ban on unlocking cell phones.

In part, that reply read: "The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. ... It's common sense."

On the other hand, the smaller carriers like Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA, MetroPCS, Leap Wireless, and others, should be licking their lips at the opportunity of snatching subscribers away from the big boys, those who want to jump ship but don't want to buy a new handset compatible with a different network.

Will phone subsidies ever die?
Verizon's CFO Fran Shammo told an audience at a Deutsche Bank conference he believes that the emergence of more smartphone ecosystems will reduce carrier subsidies.

Subsidizing handsets is a large expense for Verizon, and the more devices it sells, the lower its margins. But, he said, the increased competition provided by the arrival of Microsoft's Windows Phone, BlackBerry's BB10, and the several more operating systems that are still coming out, would eventually lower device subsidies.

"I'm a believer that over the next two or three years subsidies will start to decrease just because of the ecosystems," Shammo said.

Sorry, not this year
Nokia did not award CEO Stephen Elop with a bonus for 2012. That's not surprising given the company lost almost $5 billion for the year. Nokia did, however, give Elop a bonus of $615,000 for 2011, a year in which the company lost $1.5 billion.

More bad news for Nokia was its removal from the Euro Stoxx 50 index, which helped the share price fall 2.5% to its lowest level since Dec. 4. Nokia was taken out of the index on concerns the company can't hold on to its market share, Bloomberg reported Stoxx Ltd. saying.

When Nokia is removed from the index on March 18, its stock price could become negatively affected when funds based on that index will then have to sell the stock.

BlackBerry's back!
AT&T will begin selling BlackBerry's Z10 smartphone on March 22, Bloomberg is reporting after talking to unnamed sources. Bloomberg has said Verizon would be offering the Z10 at the end of March. T-Mobile will also carry the Z10 but no release date has been announced yet.

That would certainly be a speed-up from an April worldwide launch date announced in an official BlackBerry tweet just a week ago.

However, there will be no Z10 launch at Sprint, the carrier said. Instead, it will offer BlackBerry's Q10, which, like the Z10 runs BB10, but unlike its sibling it will sport the traditional QWERTY physical keyboard in addition to a touch screen.

What's inside?
Intel's success has come from manufacturing chips for the PC industry, but it has seen orders slowing down as the world is moving to mobile computing and chips made by others (such as Qualcomm and Samsung).

So Intel has started to use some of its idled manufacturing resources to produce mobile chips on a contract basis for other chip makers. And that puts Intel into a better position to sell its own mobile chips to a cell phone company such as Apple .

Reuters reports a source told it that Intel and Apple executives have talked during the past year but didn't settle on anything. If that could happen, Apple could unburden itself from having to buy its chips from its phone making rival Samsung.

In the meantime, Chinese phone maker ZTE announced its deal this week to use Intel processors in a new group of smartphones. This is not a new relationship for Intel. It and ZTE have been working together for several years, and Intel processors are already in ZTE's Grand X IN smartphone.

Lose some, win some
Although a U.K. court agreed with Samsung that Apple had indeed infringed on some of Samsung's standards-essential patents, the judge gave the victory to Apple because those patents were invalid to begin with.

The patents, Justice Floyd said, were the same as earlier patents --- "rendered invalid by intervening prior art," the judge said -- and because the technology described did not deserve protection because it was "obvious."

But Apple shouldn't gloat.

One of the top writers about all things Apple has just done the inconceivable -- at least to diehard Apple fan boys and girls. He traded in his iPhone 4S for a Samsung Galaxy S III.

Andy Ihnatko wrote a three-part article/confession in TechHive about why he made the big switch and why he loves Google's Android. It wasn't something he did lightly, and he lays out all the reasons in his usual clear and entertaining manner.

This is an interesting follow to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak's remarks last month in the German magazine Wirtschafts Woche, where he said, "Currently we are, in my opinion, in the smartphone business with features somewhat behind. Others have caught up. Samsung is a great competitor. But precisely because they are currently making great products."

There's a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.

The article A Foolish Week of Telecom originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Dan Radovsky owns shares of AT&T. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google, and Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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