France Télécom and Deutsche Telekom eye tech partnerships

The two network operators will work together to choose and develop the technology used to build and operate new services

France Télécom and Deutsche Telekom plan to collaborate on the technology they use to build and operate their telecommunications services, they announced Friday.

The two companies are already partners in mobile operator Everything Everywhere, the result of the merger of their U.K. mobile network subsidiaries Orange and T-Mobile.

Now, however, they have agreed to explore further areas for cooperation, including sharing their radio access networks in other European countries, standardizing the network equipment they use, and developing standards for embedded wireless terminals, also known as machine-to-machine devices.

They will also look at ways to improve Wi-Fi roaming and quality of service on international services, they said.

Other areas for technical cooperation may include TV and video delivery services and even home media servers, which European ISPs (Internet service providers) are increasingly using as market differentiators, bundling such functions in TV set-top boxes that also serve as DSL modems, routers and Wi-Fi hotspots.

While joint work in many of these areas remains only a vague project, in two of them the companies said they are already working together: the improvement of international machine-to-machine communications and Wi-Fi roaming usability.

Machine-to-machine (M-to-M) communications covers all applications where a device, rather than a person with a phone, initiates a data transfer. Without a person involved, it can be harder to troubleshoot communications problems on the fly, or to make decisions about whether the high cost of roaming calls makes it worthwhile to use data services while abroad. That's why the two companies are looking at creating a seamless network for M-to-M services in France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. Such a network will, they hope, increase quality of service and set standards for cross-border services such as e-health and connected car services.

France Télécom has operations in France, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Poland, among other countries, while Deutsche Telekom operates in Germany, the U.S., the Netherlands, Hungary, Greece, Czech Republic and Slovakia and elsewhere.

Collaborating on these services could give France Télécom and Deutsche Telecom an edge over other large communications groups such as Vodafone Group or Telefónica -- although the two said that initiatives such as their M-to-M project will also be open to other network operators.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.

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