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MWC: Where Cutting Through the Wireless Noise is Hard for Even the Most Advanced Devices

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No doubt, LTE is among the hottest topics at the Mobile World Congress this year. For the Congress, Spanish wireless carrier Telefonica expanded its network to 64 cell sectors across the conference center and at strategic points around the city. Our friends at Alcate Lucent just gave a chance to test out a Quanta MiFi hotspot on this network. Sadly, though, the fact that there are probably more wireless devices per square foot here than anywhere else in the world right now makes for an interesting experience that ranges somewhere from amazing to absolutely frustrating.

While there are a number of dedicated small LTE base stations around the conference center, the sheer number of other devices, including at least one phone and laptop for every attendee, combined with the presence of numerous untested wireless devices on the conference grounds (many of which currently operate under a special license), makes for some interesting results.

At best, we got a nice 16 megabits of download speed and around 5 megabits for our uploads. That rivals what many of us get from our broadband connections and in combination with some of the iPad and iPhone apps that Telefonica and its partner Alcatel Lucent are showcasing here in Barcelona (including augmented reality apps and video conferencing), it is obvious that this shows the way of where mobile networking is going.

In this noisy environment, though, we often got very low results as well, though, which at times barely got to 0.2 megabits. The Mobile World Congress, though, is a special place. Even though it's the world's largest conference focused on mobile technology, it's actually surprisingly hard to get a decent WiFi connection over the conference network. Even the dedicated network for the press room here is often barely working…



4:37 am


Facebook Launches New Mobile Web Standards Initiative, Easier Payments for the Mobile Web

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During a special lunch-time event at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Facebook's CTO Bret Taylor introduced a number of new industry-wide initiatives for the mobile web. Facebook is also working with a number of other vendors to define better web standards that can be implemented across devices to ensure that users can get a consistent mobile web app experience across devices. The Core Mobile Web Platform, as this new group is called, will work to ensure that there are very specific mobile web standards that developers can expect to be available across devices and mobile browers.

As a part of this initiative, Facebook is also launching a test suite called Ringmark that will measure how well mobile browsers handle these new standards.

Mobile Web Payments

In addition, Facebook is also working with a number of large telecom companies to make payments on the mobile web easier. This, said Taylor, will give developers new ways to monetize their apps and hopefully drive innovation in the mobile web space. Instead of having to go through carrier billing and SMS-based confirmations, developers will be able to tap into Facebook's payment system and quickly confirm purchases.

More from Bret Taylor at MWC

Taylor, who was the co-creator of Google Maps and co-founder of FriendFeed prior to joining Facebook, noted that "Facebook and mobile phones were made for each other." As Taylor also noted, the features in your phone are interesting specs, but their real goal is to connect people. For Facebook then, mobile is a natural platform to be on. Taylor today argued that Mark Zuckerberg would probably have developed the mobile app first if he were starting Facebook today.

Taylor also announced that Facebook now has over 425 million users, many of which don't use smartphones, but still use feature phones. What's especially important to Facebook is that its OpenGraph API enables "anyone to share from any platform," no matter what phone they use. This also means, says Facebook, that its becoming easier to find interesting apps. Today, Facebook drives 60 million users to mobile apps and Taylor specifically noted how Facebook drives millions of people to Pinterest every day.

You can find more of our coverage of the MWC here and on live.orange.com.

Disclosure: Orange, which is a partner in some of these initiatives, sponsored my trip to Barcelona.



4:44 am


Opera Launches Opera Mobile 12 Browser for Android and Symbian, Opera Mini 7 For iOS

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Opera just announced the next version of its mobile browser for Android and Symbian, as well as a developer version of its more stripped-down Opera Mini browser. While the update doesn't feature any major changes in the user interface, the Opera team has made numerous changes underneath the surface. Most importantly, Opera added support for its advanced HTML5 parser Ragnarok, which should make running web apps on your mobile phone quite a bit faster. This will also allow developers to create more sophisticated web applications that can run in your phone's browser.

Another feature that should speed up the browsing experience is Opera's newly announced support for using your phone's or tablet's graphics hardware to accelerate 3D content in your browser.

In addition, Opera added support for using an Android device's camera in the browser, as well as support for web standards like CSS3 and CORS.

Even if you don't own an Android or Symbian phone, you will soon be able to use Opera's web-based and desktop emulators to try it out yourself. If you have Opera 12 installed on your phone or tablet, also have a look at the company's demo site.

Opera Mini: Version 7 for iOS and a New Developer Version

As for Opera Mini, Opera today launched the final version of Opera Mini 7 for iOS, as well as a developer version – Opera calls these 'Opera Next.' The Next version is Opera's way of beta testing new features before they are officially released. So if you want to get an early look at some of the browser's features (this version brings smoother scrolling and a new bookmarking interface, for example, give Opera Mini Next a try. It's available for feature phones using Java, as well as Android, Blackberry and S60 phones.

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3:44 am