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Karsten Nohl, a research scientist at a Californian security research firm H4RDW4RE, and a member of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) in Germany, is behind the effort to crack the A5/1 encryption technology used by GSM, and he plans to release the keys publically on the Internet by the end of the year.

Every phone using GSM has its own secret key, which is recognized by the network. When a call is made the secret key is used to create a session key that is then used to encrypt the phone call. It is the session key that Nohl plans to crack.

Nohl has created an open-source program that will enable a peer-to-peer network of up to 80 computers to share the computing required to break the code. Since the files are distributed across the network, it will be virtually impossible to remove the code-breaking tool from the Internet. When the encryption code is cracked it will be compiled into a code book that could be used to decode any data sent to or from a GSM phone.

Computing time for the project is being speeded up by the use of components not usually found in a standard computer, such as the expensive Xilinx Virtex field-programmable gate arrays and Nvidia’s compute unified device architecture (CUDA) graphics cards. According to Nohl, graphics cards are faster than CPUs for certain applications, such as computing the A5/1 code.

The goal of the exercise, according to Nohl, is to highlight the vulnerability inherent in GSM technology and to encourage mobile phone operators still using the system to upgrade their digital phone system to 3G, which has better encryption, or to use the more advanced A5/3 encryption technology instead of A5/1.

GSM phone networks in the U.S. include AT&T and T-Mobile. Commercial tools that decrypt GSM communications have been available for some time, but they cost from $100,000 to $250,000. When Nohl’s project cracks the key and publishes the code book on the Internet, it will be possible for almost anyone to get the encryption key for any GSM call and eavesdrop on the call or read SMS messages.

Source: Click this Link


Starent Networks has announced its XT30 Service Convergence Platform allowing operators to tap into existing mobile core networks in order to deploy new multimedia services on next generation Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) networks. This platform provides innovative voice and messaging solutions that bridge devices between legacy and next generation networks, and supports applications such as converged VoIP, Femtocells, messaging and presence solutions.

The Starent XT30 Service Convergence Platform has already been selected by Cellcom, a regional US mobile network operator, as part of its end-to-end femtocell solution. Starent’s XT30 Service Convergence Platform will enable Cellcom to migrate its current voice services to a VoIP solution.

Additionally, the platform is being deployed by an unnamed tier-one North American carrier for presence-based instant messaging services.

“Our XT30 Service Convergence Platform allows operators to keep up with technology advances in fixed mobile convergence services by evolving the network in a cost-effective manner,” said Ashraf Dahod, president and CEO of Starent Networks. “Consumers and enterprises will realize the simplicity of a single service offering and begin benefitting from new data-services based on 3G and 4G technologies.”

The platform supports interfaces from 3GPP, 3GPP2 and IETF to interface with mobile access networks, mobile core networks, SIP/IMS Core Networks, and broadband IP access networks.

Source: cellular news

The PC industry is this year facing its worst slump in history, with shipments to fall 12% to 257 million units, Gartner has warned.

The research firm also revealed that global server sales fell 15.1% in the fourth quarter while mobile phone shipments slid 4.6%.

Gartner said the PC slump would dwarf the previous record in 2001 when unit shipments contracted 3.2%.

“The PC industry is facing extraordinary conditions as the global economy continues to weaken, users stretch PC lifetimes and PC suppliers grow increasingly cautious,” said Gartner research director George Shiffler.

Sales are even set to decline in emerging markets, Shiffler said. Until now, PC sales have grown every year in these markets – the slowest recorded market growth was 11.1% in 2002. But in 2009 sales in emerging markets are due to decline by 10.4%.

This weakening demand will cause significant knock-on effects for the semiconductor industry, according to research from IDC. The market is set to decline 22% in 2009, due to double-digit shipment declines and price erosion.

“With demand visibility low, utilization rates at frozen levels, and supplier inventories growing because of deteriorating demand targets, IDC does not expect year-over-year growth for semiconductor revenues until the second quarter of 2010,” said Mario Morales, IDC’s vice president for semiconductor research.

The decline will affect Asia as well as the US and Europe, IDC said, and the global market will not recover until 2010.

Gartner said the mobile phone sector boosted sales 6% for the year, but vendors sold just 314.7 units in the fourth quarter, down 4.6%.

Nokia shipped 118.8 million phones, down from 133.19 units a year earlier, and saw its market share slip from 40.4% to 37.7%.

No. 2 handset maker Samsung increased both market share and gross shipments, selling 57.5 million terminals, up from 44.35 million a year earlier to lift its market share 4.9 points to 18.3%.

In the server market, revenue fell in all regions except Japan. Sales were down 20.6% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and 12.5% in Asia-Pacific.

“The weakening economic environment had a deep impact on server market revenues in the fourth quarter as companies put a hold on spending across most market segments,” said Heeral Kota, a senior research analyst.


Quick, Easy and Effective SMS Texting for Businesses, Community Groups and Clubs

Milton Keynes, UK, 25th February 2009 Summary Geodesa communications has launched an online SMS Texting service that clubs, groups, businesses and charities can use to communicate with a group of people instantly. GeoTEXT makes it very easy to send news, promotions or alerts to any number of club members or customers mobiles in seconds. Main body SMS is one of the most effective ways of instantly communicating with people. GeoTEXT is quick and easy to set up, taking about 2 minutes from subscribing to sending the first SMS. Set up is free and users only pay for the SMS they send, buying messages by the “bundle”. The system can manage unlimited groups of mobile numbers, import numbers and details from Excel, mail merge details into messages and schedule delivery up to a year in advance using the online interface.

Ed Neal, managing director of Geodesa limited which distributes GeoTEXT, says “If you have not already started using SMS text messaging GeoTEXT makes it easy for the small club, business or multinational to start using SMS as a means of effectively communicating with their members or customers. A GeoTEXT SMS goes straight into the pocket of the recipient within seconds – who do you know that does not instinctively check there mobile when bleeps telling them a new message has arrived?” In these times of recession and credit crunch there may have never been such a low cost, high impact way of instantly delivering your message to customers. Ed’s not talking about SMS Spamming, but delivering your message to people who have opted in to receive messages from you. Such a warm market can lead to very high conversion rates of up to 50% making it very cost effective. Text credits start at £8 for a bundle of 100 credits with larger volumes costing 3.9 pence per message. Volumes over 100000 are available. This is very cheap considering the cost, time and effort involved when sending out a mail shot, which typically only get a limited response. Remember that most email newsletters go into a SPAM folder or never get read. Ed goes on to say “The uses are unlimited and varied. Our current GeoTEXT customers use it for sending staff details about last minute changes of meeting venue or time, businesses sending a discounts and promotions to customers at their restaurant, sailing clubs telling members of races and events, schools telling parents that school is closed due to snow or for event management companies making sure people are in the right place at the right time. What I love is the immediacy of SMS. From someone having an initial idea, they can have it in the pockets of thousands within minutes.” GeoTEXT provides a free keyword and number to help the user grow a list of opt-in customers who are keen to receive messages and offers. Five digit short codes instead of a mobile number are also available.

Source: Total Telecom

Researchers say a newly tested method for producing super dense, defect-free, thin polymer films is the fastest, most efficient method ever achieved and it may dramatically improve microelectronic storage capabilities such as used in mobile phones.

In the February 20 issue of the journal Science, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and their colleagues at the University of California Berkeley, report how they designed a new way to guide the self-assembly of the material used to store computer memory, layered block copolymers, and generate up to 10 times more storage space than similarly sized copolymers.

The researchers say they developed a defect-free method that can generate more than 10-terabit-per-square-inch copolymer where other efforts achieved at most one terabit per square inch.

“We can generate nearly perfect arrays over macroscopic surfaces where the density is over 15 times higher than anything achieved before,” said Thomas Russell director of the UMass Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. He co-led the research with Ting Xu, a member of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Berkeley. “We applied a simple concept to solve several problems at once, and it really worked out,” Russell said.

The concept involved stacking atoms more closely together than previously thought possible to produce the highest density copolymer ever achieved, one capable of storing more information than previous copolymers. Researchers used surface ridges of a base crystal to guide the assembly very much like using the corrugations in cardboard to direct how closely marbles can be packed together.

For the copolymer’s base layer, the researchers used commercially-available sapphire wafers, which start out flat. After heating them from 1300 to 1500 degrees Celsius for 24 hours, the wafer’s surface reorganized into a sawtooth topography with an inherent orientation. A thin copolymer film layer then was applied causing the underlying sawtooth corrugations to guide the film’s self-assembly in a highly-ordered way to form an ultra-dense hexagonal, or honeycomb, crystalline lattice.

Additionally, by varying the annealing temperature, the scientists were able to change the angle and height of the sawteeth and the depth of the troughs between their peaks. The result enabled researchers to produce more densely packed troughs, which is where computer memory is stored.

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Science.

“I expect this new method of producing highly ordered macroscopic arrays of nanoscopic elements will revolutionize the microelectronic and storage industries and perhaps others,” said Russell.

He points out most previous efforts to create a well-ordered base material onto which electronic information is stored topped out at 15 nanometers for the smallest achievable pattern size. But “we’ve shattered that barrier and I think we can go farther,” Russell said.

“This research by the teams at UMass Amerherst and Berkeley represents a significant breakthrough in the use of polymer self-assembly to create a high density of addressable locations in a thin film,” said NSF program manager William J. Brittain. “Most significantly, the simple crystalline lattice used as the template may serve as a revolutionary step for a new generation of computer memory.”

Source: cellular news

“Dropping an ‘F’ bomb”: the new expression in the Total Telecom office for any mention of the word “femtocell”.

And femtocells featured more than once when we, the editorial team, gathered our thoughts and set down our predictions for the telecoms industry in 2009.

“People working on a viable femtocells business model still won’t get anywhere. Operators will run out of patience and either embark on ill-fated commercial launches, or abandon any notion of a femtocells proposition altogether,” said one staff member, confidently.

But another was more forgiving, suggesting that “the industry will finally accept that, although there are some interesting niche areas where femtocells could thrive, they will never be a mass-market solution.”

As usual, we’re not naming the individual team members to spare our blushes, to avoid having to witness people doing the smug victory dance this time next year (see Futurology: What happened next for the results of last year’s predictions.), and possibly to spare ourselves a lynching from disgruntled readers with vested interests. The predictions are from online and magazine staff, both in the U.K. and overseas.

We are not only sceptical on femtocells though. There were a number of predictions looking at what will not happen next year.

“Mobile TV will not take off,” said one member of the team, a comment that drew little argument from the rest.

“The Internet will not fall over due to a deluge of data and insufficient operator investment in network capacity,” said another.

But opinion was divided on telepresence, of all things.

“Telepresence will not take off in 2009,” one of us said.

However, “operators will find they can’t meet data centre needs as demand for managed hosted services increases, particularly for telepresence services,” insisted another.

Let’s hope a fight doesn’t break out in the New Year!

“In the current economic climate, big brands will be even less keen to spend money on unproven mobile advertising campaigns, so they won’t,” predicted someone in the U.K. office.

A sobering thought for operators looking for those all-important new revenue streams.

Money talks
Naturally, the financial crisis featured heavily in our thinking.

“The financial turmoil will hit carriers, system vendors and component players hard,” said an overseas editor, echoing all of our thoughts.

“Many of the existing system vendors and component vendors that experienced the dotcom crash are expert at survival, but what is different this time is that the supply chain is far more fragile with far fewer players making the same equipment. This is especially true in optical components.”

Another team member suggested that the financial crisis will hit “in particular those divisions providing enterprise services.”

And as usual, many of us singled out the vendors for special attention.

“Nortel will either go bankrupt or sell off all networking businesses and just retain its enterprise operations. It could then be bought by a larger company,” said one of us.

But another went further still.

“Huawei will offer to buy Nortel. Regulators will have a field day trying to stop the deal going ahead, if this year’s failed 3Com buy is anything to go by.”

Things are also looking gloomy on the devices side.

“Mid-tier handset manufacturers will continue to have a rough time. We can expect to see a wider range of mini PCs subsidised by mobile operators,” said one editor.

As usual, U.S. whipping boy Motorola took some flak.

“Motorola will find any way it can out of the mobile handset business, probably by spinning off its devices business… to a museum,” said one bright spark.

“There will be friction between Motorola co-CEOs Greg Brown and Sanjay Jha as it becomes increasingly evident that a devices spin-off will not be an easy thing to achieve,” added another.

“The lack of new products in the pipeline to replace the RAZR will not help matters.”

But we see one handset maker’s star continuing to rise.

“Apple, keen to build on the momentum generated by its first two handsets, and in a bid to take on Nokia, RIM and Android phones, will unveil another handset,” a team member predicted. “It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what it does, because press coverage is guaranteed. It will probably be made out of hemp.”

Things will also be tough on the mobile operator side.

“LTE trials will continue but operators are likely to hold off on investment in networks. We could instead see moves increasingly to HSPA+,” said one editor.

Meanwhile, “mobile broadband will get a reality check and operators will have to start improving HSPA coverage,” s/he added.

“Consumers will get increasingly frustrated about the quality of service on mobile broadband dongles,” another editor agreed.

“The credit crunch could see people ditching expensive mobile contracts in favour of pre-paid, SIM-only offers. This will also hit handset makers, as replacement cycles continue to slow. Fixed-line providers may benefit as price-sensitive users revert to using the landline to make calls,” one of us suggested.

Alternatively, “Skype will become increasingly popular as a recession-busting way to beat mobile charges – 3 UK’s best seller,” said another.

Internet players and network issues
“Carl Icahn will continue to make his presence felt in the industry. He will continue to be a thorn in Yahoo’s side in the near term, but will ultimately move onto a new victim,” one of us believes.

“A move to unseat U.S. president-elect Barack Obama seems unlikely, although not impossible, but North American telco execs should be on their guard,” s/he added. “The fact that the investor still holds shares in Time Warner could come into play.”

Meanwhile, “things will continue to look bleak for Yahoo. By this time next year the Internet company’s brand could have disappeared completely,” one of us said. “At the very least, the company will have to broker some sort of deal with a rival company to survive.”

A tie-up with Microsoft seems like the most likely option.

“Microsoft will explore other ways it can compete with Google,” said another team member. “It might mean a revised deal with Yahoo for its search business, or even acquiring a company like Mozilla, which makes the increasingly popular Firefox browser.

In addition, “in light of Google’s and Apple’s mobile adventures, Microsoft will also push its mobile operating system increasingly towards the consumer segment,” s/he added.

Despite our earlier assertion that the Internet will not fall over, we are seeing growing demand for network capacity next year.

“Deployments of PON will go 10 Gbps and Ethernet will go 100 Gbps,” said one of our non-U.K. team.

“Backhaul articles will start appearing in the FT,” another one of us thinks.

Around the world
Global markets also provided us with inspiration, and here’s one prediction that could come true even before we’re back at work in January:

“China will probably come out with some form of licensing, but it will do something unexpected and TD-SCDMA is unlikely to remain a standalone offering,” one team member said.

Or, “China will trigger a global trade war after finally handing out its mega-dollar 3G vendor contracts, but giving all the business to Huawei and ZTE,” said one of our roving reporters.

China Mobile reportedly awarded TD-SCDMA network contracts recently, and while Sweden’s Ericsson did take a small portion of those deals, the bulk did indeed go to Chinese players.

In Hong Kong, PCCW controlling shareholder Richard Li will end 2009 as he began 2008, 2007, 2006… still searching for a way to cash out of PCCW,” said one international editor.

In Africa, “there will be consolidation as the large operators try to buy out all of the smaller players, throughout the continent,” another team member thinks. “By the end of 2009 there will be three or four giants operating in Africa: MTN, Zain, Orange and maybe Vodafone, depending how quickly the last moves on expanding in the market when the Vodacom deal is done,” s/he added.

Furthermore, “there will be at least one rumour of a merger between MTN and another big operator,” one of us said. “Depending on funding, the deal might (or might not) go through this time around.”

And turning to North America, “Verizon will offer to buy Vodafone out of Verizon Wireless,” said one of our U.K. staff.

“Cisco will emerge as a fully-fledged service provider,” another concluded.

As the saying goes, only time will tell!

Source: Total Telecom

Don’t be surprised if during the course of 2009 you opt for a bigger TV screen because you’re playing more video games and going to the movies less often. You won’t be alone, says a longtime watcher of tech trends in his predictions for the coming year.

Mark Anderson is chief executive of Strategic News Service, a newsletter circulated to C-level tech executives. Each year he makes prognostications concerning technology and the economy. Last year he predicted a breakout year for ultramobile PCs, and he said Apple (AAPL) would launch one. The computer maker’s MacBook Air came close. In late 2006, Anderson predicted the launch of the first PC with solid-state hard drives, which happened in 2007.

Here’s a rundown of his expectations for 2009:

More screen time at home

With consumer spending on entertainment slowing down, consumers will happily spend more to improve their at-home entertainment experience instead of splurging on outings to restaurants, movies, and weekend getaways. That means bigger TV screens to connect to video game consoles for family rounds of Rock Band on the Sony (SNE) Playstation 3, Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox 360, or Nintendo (7974.T) Wii. “People have been investing in bringing these screens into their homes for years, but very few of them are fully gamed up,” Anderson says. “So I think there will be a lot of spending by people to get extra entertainment mileage out of those screens at very low cost.”

Tight budgets also will foster the proliferation of free or low-cost mobile-phone applications. Case in point: Apple’s iPhone App Store on iTunes, where most applications are free—and those that aren’t usually sell for $10 or less. Consumers also can get cheap online software for Research In Motion’s (RIMM) BlackBerry and phones running the various mobile operating systems backed by Nokia (NOK), Microsoft, and Google (GOOG). “In terms of innovation and investment and purchase, phone applications are it for 2009,” Anderson says. “Apple has already made it clear, and it’s going to move out to other smartphones, and it’s going to be a huge market.”

Smartphones are not only going to be running more applications, they’ll also be capable of handling ever more complex tasks. Voice recognition will become both powerful, accurate, and common among mobile-phone applications, Anderson says. “After 150 years of waiting, we’ll get voice recognition everywhere,” he says. Such companies as Vlingo and Nuance (NUAN) will extend their technology into many applications. “By the end of the year, more than a third of mobile users will be using voice recognition without thinking about it,” Anderson says.

Personal assistance

How will tiny cell phones handle all those new tasks? The short answer is they won’t. New tools called Internet assistants will help wireless devices send demanding computing tasks via the wireless Web to other computers or to servers—off in what’s known as “the cloud.” “Someone is going to design a personal assistant—by that I mean a suite of services, customized just for you, that exists on a server farm,” Anderson says. Mobile applications such as AroundMe on the iPhone are already pointing the way. “You already see concierge services that tell you, when you land in a foreign city, what the cultural events are in that city, and get tickets for them, and things like that,” he says.

Anderson says the assistant technology would combine with tools that track consumer preferences to know what you need, such as preferences when you travel, all triggered by short messages from the user saying something like “business trip, Los Angeles” or “family vacation Miami.” “You might have it rent you a midsize car when you travel alone on business, but when you’re traveling with the family it might rent a minivan,” he says.

“You would say, give me a business visit, give me a fun visit, give me a family visit, and it would know what that means.” And it all could be done from your mobile phone.

Anderson is also predicting that the wireless industry will coalesce around a new standard known as LTE, or Long-Term Evolution, as it moves to develop faster wireless connections to the Internet.

Mobile PCs will continue to evolve, too, Anderson says. Netbooks, the popular new class of lightweight computers, will grow into an important market segment. “If you’re looking for growth rates, the strongest will be in this category, and it will be beyond debate,” he says. “Until now, it’s been debatable. Everyone will have one. The only question will be what color it is.”



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