IN ORBIT: Sony-Ericsson, OpenTel, TV, Smart card security

IN ORBIT: Sony-Ericsson, OpenTel, TV, Smart card security

Sony Ericsson brand arrives down under

The first mobile phone to sport the joint Sony Ericsson brand is to be released in Australia next month. Using Bluetooth technology, T68i will be "the first multimedia messaging phone to hit the Australian market", the company claims. The colour-screen, GPRS-enabled phone will allow photos and images to be saved and shared with other Bluetooth peripherals users. The release of the T68i coincides with the launch of an extensive Sony Ericsson product portfolio, which focuses on imaging messaging applications.

The company is hoping the launch of the new portfolio will improve its financial fortunes - Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, Ericsson's mobile handset joint venture, has so far fallen short of profitability, losing $A126 million in the first six months of operation. Sony Ericsson itself incurred a total loss of $252 million in its first quarter of operation.

According to Ericsson, the company sold 6.8 million phones, generating sales of $1.75 billion. This resulted in the Japanese-Swedish company being overtaken by Germany's Siemens, which earlier in May said it sold 9 million handsets in the fourth quarter. Ericsson justified the results by claiming it was focusing on high-end models.

The company expects sales at its mobile systems division, which accounts for the bulk of its business, to be in line with market development with the objective of reaching an operating margin of 5 per cent for the full year.

OpenTel casts cloud over Australian telecom marketAustralia's attempts to develop a vibrant information and communication technology market took a blow earlier this month when Open Telecommunications (OpenTel) announced the resignation of managing director and chief executive officer Colin Chandler and chief financial officer Shane Hodson. The company notified the Australian Stock Exchange that both executive roles will now be filled by company founder and chairman Wayne Passlow.

Sydney-based OpenTel provides monitoring and management products for network operators and telecommunication carriers, two industries experiencing financial difficulties worldwide.

The resignations came three weeks after the company requested a halt to trading of its shares on the ASX on the grounds that a dispute with one of its customers could have material but unpredictable effects on its share price. Media reports have suggested that an OpenTel customer, a new carrier (Comindico) is demanding a $4 million ($US2.2 million) repayment for below-par services and that the setback may spell the end for OpenTel.

OpenTel's flagship product, OpenCI, is an operations support system (OSS) designed to help operators with service configuration, network provisioning, reporting and capacity management.

The company was valued at more than $2 billion at its peak, but its 615 million shares are now quoted on the ASX at $0.05 each, for a total value of slightly more than $30 million. In April, the company laid off 77 of its staff and closed offices in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the Netherlands.

The problems at OpenTel follow the high-profile crash of consumer telecommunication company One.Tel, which failed in May last year, owing nearly $600 million to equipment providers and other creditors. Another second-tier carrier, dingo blue, will close at the end of June after losing $45 million in the past year, leaving 68,000 customers without a carrier.

According to independent telecommunication analyst Paul Budde, Australia had 11 significant carriers in 1999, a figure which may drop to only three or four by the end of this year. As the number of carriers declines, so do the opportunities for vendors selling into the carrier market.

- by David Legard.

Europeans prefer TV, newspapers to the NetWhile almost all Europeans watch television, more than half don't own a computer and only about a third regularly access the Internet, according to results of a European Commission poll. The EC and Eurostat survey of 16,162 Europeans aged 15 or more found that just 35 per cent of those interviewed surf the Web. Ninety-eight per cent of Europeans watch TV and 46 per cent read local or national newspapers at least five times per week.

Nine per cent of Europeans go online every day, with the most popular activities being e-mail communication for work or among friends and family, followed by information research and job applications.

The study found the Internet was most popular in Scandinavia and the Netherlands. In Sweden, 67 per cent of those interviewed use the Net, making the nation the most wired in Europe. However, there are great contrasts in adoption rates among European nations - the study said 75 per cent of people in Greece and Portugal do not use a computer.

Source: Bizreport.

Smart card security needs upgrade

Researchers at the University of Cambridge in England have invalidated the security systems in many smart card systems by developing a way of attacking and causing faults in cards using common tools such as a photographer's flash gun and a microscope. Ross Anderson of Cambridge University's Computer Laboratory recently described the discovery to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers symposium on security and privacy in California.

In a statement, the researchers said the method is much simpler and more effective than the techniques used in the past. While many security processors can stop the more basic attacks, they will now have to be upgraded, they said.

Simply shielding the processor by adding, for example, a top metal layer to the chip is no longer enough because silicon becomes transparent to the light in an infrared flash - therefore the chip can be attacked from the rear. Electromagnetic pulses and X-rays could also be used.

The attack technique was kept under wraps for a year until defensive technologies could be developed. The researchers say there is a new silicon technology that can block this and many of the previously known attacks.

Simon Moore, one of the researchers, says Cambridge Laboratory's team has to look at both sides of the smart card security battle. "[We try] to design better smart cards using better techniques and circuit designs, but we also look at how to break them," he says. "It's like being a good locksmith - you have to know how to pick locks.

"We want the public to be wary of these technologies because while they have appropriate uses, such as for SIM cards, [there is talk of using them] as national identity cards. That's of great concern because there is the potential to clone these cards and create fake ones. A fake SIM card may not cause a great personal cost to the person who loses it, but a fake passport could almost ruin their life."

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