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  1. Technology
November 20, 1995


By CBR Staff Writer

The US Federal Communications Commission’s December 11 auction of 498 airwave licences for small businesses (CI No 2,785) was dealt another setback after a US appeals court ruled that the agency improperly adopted regulations that govern the auction: the court in Cincinnati ruled in favour of BellSouth Corp, Cincinnati Bell Inc and Radiofone Inc and ordered the Commission to reconsider rules which the companies said restrict the ability of some cellular companies from bidding on new wireless communications licences; last month, the US Supreme Court gave the Commission the green light to proceed with the auction by denying a petition by Radiofone to delay the so-called C block auction; the New Orleans company had challenged the Commission cross-ownership rule, which limits cellular companies to 40MHz of spectrum in cellular services.

Commenting on market gossip of a rights issue, Vodafone Group Plc asserted to Reuter that It’s a very feasible story, but it’s untrue.

Milpitas, California-based NetFrame Systems Inc said it has settled a class action lawsuit against the company by agreeing to pay $2.2m, net of insurance proceeds, reducing third quarter earnings to a loss of $0.14 per share from a previously-reported net profit of $0.02 per share: for the nine months ended September 30, the company has revised its financial statements to a net loss of $0.61 per share from a previously reported loss of $0.45.

Omaha, Nebraska-based MFS Communications Inc has won approval to offer local phone service in Texas in competition with SBC Communications Inc and GTE Corp with service expected to begin early in 1996: the Texas Public Utility Commission’s approval contrasts with a recent rejection of MCI Communications Corp which also sought to offer local service in the state; under Texas legislation, MFS will have several of the aspects of co-carrier status, reciprocal compensation, number portability, interconnection and unbundling of local loop telephone lines; the company has a 145 route-mile fibre optic network in Dallas and a 251 route-mile network in Houston; it plans to offer local and long distance service as well as calling card, 800 number, voice mail, customised billing and management reports; GTE and SBC territories do not overlap, so this is the first local phone competition they will face in the state; MFS has local phone service applications pending in Delaware, New Jersey, and Oregon; it already has co-carrier status in eight states, and lesser, local exchange carrier status in four other ones.

San Francisco, California-based AirTouch Communications Inc is to sell the assets of its vehicle location business to a new company named Teletrac Inc, based in Leawood, Kansas, and formed for the purpose of acquiring the assets of AirTouch Teletrac, which provides corporate fleet and stolen vehicle tracking services in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami; the financial terms were not disclosed.

Nokia Oy’s Nokia Mobile Phones Ltd has opened a customer support and distribution centre in Singapore which will process and package mobile phones produced in Finland, Germany and South Korea, for distribution to its customers in South and Southeast Asia, to help it tap Asia’s rising demand for cellular phones, the company said: it said it had made a multi-million dollar investment in the new plant, but would not disclose the actual figure; Nokia plans to introduce a new series of digital mobile phones on the wireless Personal Communications Network system in Singapore and Malaysia within a few weeks; it said demand for mobile phones is growing strongly, and will continue rising for the next three years.

In his Inside The New Computer Industry, Andrew Allison notes that with volume PA-8000 deliveries unlikely before the middle of next year, Digital Equipment Corp and Sun Microsystems Inc have the opportunity to make hay at Hewlett-Packard Co’s expense: although he expects DEC to remain the overall performance leader, he believes the real threat comes from Sun, whose 64-bit UltraSparc effort is three to six months ahead of the PA-8000.

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Richard Li, younger son of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing, is selling his one-year-old Asian satellite phone business to Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, which is chaired by his father: Hutchison said on Monday it was buying the Corporate Access satellite communications system from Richard Li’s Pacific Century Group Ltd for $74.5m; Pacific said Richard Li, who is also deputy chairman of Hutchison, decided to sell the unit because he would eventually have competed with Hutchison if he expanded; the unit, Pacific Century Technology Investments Ltd, provides satellite telecommunications equipment and services using Very Small Aperture Terminal technology and its selling point is that it links companies via satellite with their branches throughout Asia where telephone lines are often not available; the sale does not mean Pacific Century, which also has insurance, infrastructure and property investments, is out of telecommunications for good: Hutchison said the deal was made after an independent valuation by Schroders in Hong Kong; the directors considered the terms to be fair and reasonable.

Not content with selling Indigo workstations on the strength their graphics engines, Silicon Graphics Inc has one step further and is now touting them as coffee machines: the Expressigo, as it is delightfully named, is a Gaggia Expresso machine housed in the Indigo’s blue casing, but runs on ground beans instead of chips; Silicon Graphics reckons it has sold 700 so far to large customers that love Indigo so much they want a coffee machine that looks just like one – not bad when you realise that instead of gratefully giving the things to customers that have just shelled out a small fortune, it charges ú770 each for the things, making them rather pricey coffee machines.

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