Vodafone snaps up Vizzavi web venture


The struggling media giant Vivendi Universal has sold its 50% stake in European internet portal Vizzavi to joint venture partner Vodafone for 142.7m euros (£90.4m; $140.5m).

The joint venture was set up two years ago, in return for Vivendi helping Vodafone to win the takeover battle for German mobile phone company Mannesmann.

Vizzavi was supposed to provide Vivendi’s and Vodafone’s 86 million “mobile customers” with news, entertainment and internet services across three platforms – online, television and mobile phones.

Both firms pumped millions of euros into the venture, but the slow roll-out of web television and high-speed mobile internet services hampered expansion plans and kept usage relatively low.

The sale will provide Vivendi with much needed cash. Saddled with debt, the company came close to bankruptcy earlier this year, and now has a new management.

The French company said getting rid of its stake in loss-making Vizzavi would save it 171m euros in the 2002/03 financial year.

Meanwhile Vodafone hopes that Vizzavi will break even this year.

The key revenue driver will be Vodafone’s new consumer package, called Vodafone Live.

Set to launch in the autumn, the service is likely to follow the example set by T-Mobile and Orange and allow Vodafone customers to e-mail pictures through mobile phones and other internet services.

The deal, however, also results in the break-up of Vizzavi’s European network.

Vizzavi France will stay with Vivendi, while the rest of Vizzavi – operating in Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, and the UK – will continue to serve Vodafone customers.

However, the French multi-media portal will continue to receive technical support from its European sister operations, and benefit from Vizzavi’s research and development.

What remains of Vizzavi Europe will employ 450 people.


BT loses web links battle

BT has lost its legal battle to charge internet service providers for using hyperlinks.
BT has lost its legal battle to charge internet service providers for using hyperlinks.
In a test case, the British telecoms firm took the American internet service provider Prodigy to court, claiming it had invented the highlighted text that allows users to click from one website to another and was therefore entitled to royalties.
US judge Colleen McMahon has now ruled that the ISP was not infringing a patent filed by BT more than 25 years ago and supported Prodigy’s motion to have the case dismissed.
 It will be an embarrassing blow for BT which has won few friends for what was seen in the industry as an attempt to hold the internet to ransom. If it had been successful it would have had far-reaching effects on the whole industry. BT said it had not entirely given up the fight.
“We are disappointed and are currently perusing the 27-page ruling,” said a spokesman. The setback will be especially disappointing for BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland.
In February he bullishly defended the case. At the time he said: “The idea that we should abandon the suit for the feel-good factor for ISPs is bizarre.”
Judge McMahon found several problems with the argument proffered by BT, most importantly that the internet had no central computer as described in the original patent. As part of its defence, Prodigy produced a 1968 video by Stanford computer researcher Douglas Engelbart apparently demonstrating hypertext technology, eight years before BT lodged its patent in the US.

Plusnet offer Home and Office Highway users the benefits of broadband


Plusnet, the first choice for low-cost and high-value Internet connections have today reminded ISDN users that a simple, hassle-free upgrade to high-speed, always-on broadband is now available.

The new simplified and automated ordering system means that a single order is placed with Plusnet, with the entire conversion process and subsequent activation of the customer’s ADSL service being carried out by them.

If for any technical reason the conversion fails, BT will now convert the line back to the original ISDN service at no cost to the end user. Only upon successful line conversion is the customer charged BT’s £27.99 inc VAT administrative cost.

“Line conversions have been made so much simpler with Plusnet’s new ordering system,” explained Alistair Wyse, Technical Director of Plusnet. “Those currently using ISDN can now order ADSL with confidence, understanding that should the conversion not go ahead they will not be out of pocket.”

The simple upgrade process applies to both Home and Office Highway versions of ISDN, as well as ISDN2. This comes as great news to users of these services who want to take advantage of Plusnet’s lowest-cost ‘Starter Packs’ that were introduced last week.

Everything you need to get started with ADSL is included in your Broadband Starter Pack – line activation, choice of internal modem, external modem or router, 2 splitters, an easy-to-follow setup guide and delivery. With prices starting from only £85.10 for your Starter Pack and £17.86 per month for your subscription (prices exclude VAT), you simply can’t get better value.




Checkout the latest deals on PlusNet broadband here.