Telecom Roundup: Samsung #1 in U.S.; Sprint Loses Money, Customers; More

Last Updated Nov 7, 2008 3:30 PM EST

Handset vendors play who's on first -- The old vaudeville routine of Who's on First, often associated with Abbot and Costello, could make you dizzy. But the jostling among handset vendors is anything but a fun game. Samsung has supplanted Motorola as the number one mobile phone vendor in the U.S. with a 21.1 percent market share -- a brutal slide down the razor blade of life from the previous year's 32.7 percent. Samsung's climb wasn't a matter of sinking less, but growing six percent over 2007. Research in Motion kept a double-digit market share and Apple became the sixth largest U.S. handset vendor, but at Nokia's expense, whose smartphone market share dropped from 51.4 percent last year to 38.9 percent now. Of course there are also dueling analysts, and figures from another firm suggest that Apple is now the number two smartphone vendor, instead of number three. I don't know? He's on third. [Source: Engadget on Samsun passes Motorola and Apple as number two smartphone vendor, , Reuters]

AT&T hot for hotspots -- AT&T is adding to its hotspot collection by acquiring Wi-Fi provider Waypoint, including 10,000 spots at McDonald's locations. Other customers now on the AT&T roster are Wyndham, Marriott Vacation Club, and Four Seasons hotels. Not only does the company get more places that it can potentially charge users, but it adds territories in which it can offer freebies to iPhone users, helping to protect its investment should Steve Jobs develop a wandering eye. Good thing, as it looks like an AT&T Android handset isn't coming about as soon as some would like. [Source: Ars Technica, Engadget]

Sprint is one hurting puppy -- Sprint lost $326 million last quarter and, even worse, saw 1.3 million subscribers walk. That's a good $50 million less than average analyst expectations, and comes after losing $344 million and over 900,000 customers the previous quarter. Maybe CEO Dan Hesse should forget about being on commercials and focus on something else -- like, oh, mopping up the red ink. Hey, at least the company is being consistent. Good news, or at least as good as it gets in such times: the company has renegotiated its debt, trading the amount of money available for a greater debt to earnings ratio so it doesn't fall below contract thresholds that could have put it into default. [Source: New York Times]

Nortel watchers smell layoffs in the waters -- USB Research analyst Nikos Theodosopoulos is guessing that Nortel will make steep headcount cuts, possible as high as ten percent as well as sell its Metro Ethernet Networks (MET) business. The reason is long term finance. He estimates that by the end of 2010, the company will have burned through enough cash to leave only $1.3 billion in the bank. That may sound far from chicken feed, but when you have a billion in debt coming due in 2011, it suddenly doesn't seem like so much. The cuts and sale should add quite a chunk. [Source: GigaOM]

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.