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Altice x PTel, Vodafone, Liberty Global, Chinese broadband: Telco 2.0 News Review

  • ‘Digital Asia 2014’ Executive Brainstorm and Innovation Forum, run by STL Partners in collaboration with Telkom Indonesia, is designed to equip 250 specially-invited business leaders from across the region’s telecoms, enterprise and technology sectors with new, breakthrough ideas, methods and tools on how to grow significant new revenues in the next 12-18 months leveraging Mobile, Cloud and Big Data.

    Altice bid for Portugal Telecom is a go at €7.4bn; TI sells Italian towers ahead of Brazilian consolidation

    Altice Group, the holding company of Numericable and SFR, has entered exclusive negotiations for the acquisition of Portugal Telecom. They offered €7.4bn for the company’s Portuguese assets, minus the infamous Rioforte bonds, which presumably means that Oi gets to exit from its deal with PTel ready to take on whatever is coming in the Brazilian market. Altice, which already owns an enterprise ISP and a cable network in Portugal, is presenting the deal as being all about fixed-mobile convergence - it’s worth noting that PTel owns a lot of FTTH assets.

  • There’s some detail of the financing here. Out of the €7.4bn, €5.7bn is cash, which Altice proposes to borrow from a syndicate of banks, probably as dollar-denominated junk bonds. The acquisition of SFR, for example, led them to issue the biggest ever high-yield junk bond, $16.7bn worth.

    Meanwhile, PTel is merging its wireless and wireline units.

    In Brazil, of course, we’re all waiting to see whether TIM Brasil buys Oi, gets broken up, or gets acquired by Oi. Clearly, €5.7bn in cash gives Oi quite a few more options there. It’s probably interesting, then, that Telecom Italia has been told by the regulator it’s unlikely to be allowed to buy Milan-based FTTP deployer Metroweb. That’s one option closed off, pointing TI’s interest towards Brazil.

    And now TI is looking at an IPO or sale of its Italian towers, as if it were rounding up capital for something.

    Vodafone - bid for Liberty Global, or just Talk(Talk)? BT shareholder backs O2 bid; 3UK leaps in

    Anything can happen in the UK mobile market at the moment, but a big movement towards fixed-mobile integration is the best bet.

    Vodafone is apparently considering two options, a drastic solution under which it would acquire the whole of Liberty Global, giving it Virgin Media and of course cable operators all over Europe, and a conservative solution under which it would acquire TalkTalk.

    The first option would solve its fibre-to-the-cell problem at a stroke and add a strong broadband and content business, but would be very expensive and highly sensitive politically. European, German, Dutch, and UK regulators would be involved on a wide variety of issues, and the UK market for mobile backhaul would become a BT (plus O2)/Vodafone (plus C&WW, plus VMED) duopoly that would also be vertically integrated. At £44bn, it would be a flashback to the Chris Gent era at Vodafone.

    The TalkTalk option would give it a very decent triple-play business with a good set-top box without scaring the regulators, and it would be cheaper, but it wouldn’t fix the gap between Vodafone’s coverage of fibre-to-the-cell and that of EE and 3UK, both powered by VMED. However, TalkTalk is committed to building out FTTH under various joint ventures with CityFibre - so this option would be more like “buy TalkTalk, and invest in more builds”.

    Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph speaks to an anonymous but “top 5” BT shareholder, who says they would be willing to back a rights issue raising several billion pounds in order to buy O2. Interestingly, they also said they would be willing to let Telefonica keep 20% of O2 UK, but didn’t go into details about EE, suggesting that they’re thinking about O2.

    And 3UK is getting involved, or rather, Hutchison Whampoa is. They are apparently interested in buying an operator, although they don’t seem very interested in fixed, so perhaps O2 would be the target? 3UK is very, very interested in fibre-to-the-cell, though, having deployed it to an industry-leading 97% of its cellsites and begun replacing VMED’s gigabit Ethernet product with dark fibre.

    In all the excitement, you might forget that this is a market where price pressure is so intense that PlusNet is offering “unlimited” broadband, plus weekend phone calls, for just the line rental, and throwing in a £75 gimme, on a 12 month contract. On the other hand, those line rentals are going up.

    It’s become harder to get BT to revert a wholesale FTTC install that doesn’t come up to scratch.

    Remember Project Canvas, Kangaroo, and YouView? The UK’s TV industry has published its new hybrid broadband-broadcast spec, which doesn’t support 4K, any metrics, or multi-screen, but does support precisely one Microsoft DRM technology.

    Ansip vs. Oettinger; GSMA vs. national roaming; FCC vs. T-Mo; 7 MNOs is too many for Uganda

    After Günther Oettinger’s turn back towards the E5 telco lobby, it looks like the European Commission is trimming a bit. Unlike the days when Neelie Kroes or Viviane Reding’s word was law, the new structure of the Commission means that Oettinger has a boss, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip (he used to be Prime Minister of Estonia in case you didn’t know). Ansip seems worried that the Council is going with Oettinger while the European Parliament wants a much more net-neutrality focused text.

    Benoit Felten argues that the Parliament is right in that the net-neutrality issue doesn’t arise unless, Oettinger-like, the Commission permits more in-market consolidation.

    The GSMA has responded to the revival of UK national roaming proposals, via its durable VP of regulatory affairs Tom Philips, saying it’s a terrible idea, and suggesting instead that the government give operators a let-off on spectrum pricing. Meanwhile, the government’s Mobile Infrastructure Plan has so far delivered exactly two new base stations in as many years.

    The FCC has ordered T-Mobile USA to inform its subscribers that they are approaching a data cap and to publish speeds based on tests, rather than “up to” theoretical maxima. However, they haven’t acted on part of the complaint that deals with them blocking some speed-test apps. Meanwhile, T-Mo has zero-rated more music services, notably SoundCloud and Google Play (iTunes Radio and Spotify were already in there). They deny that the content providers are making any payment to T-Mobile.

    And Airtel Uganda’s CEO says seven operators is too many for Uganda, or indeed anywhere else.

    Chinese broadband opens to ISPs; NBN FTTH is over, Romanian beginning

    China is looking at opening the fixed broadband market to competition. Chinese companies with at least 3 years’ experience and capital of $3.26m will be eligible to provide service either over China Telecom, China Netcom, or China Unicom’s infrastructure, or to roll out their own.

    NBN Co has given some more details of its future plans, including which districts will get what under the so-called multi-technology mix. The high-level view is that FTTH deployment will end at 25% coverage, and the fixed-wireless and satellite elements will be completed as planned, plus 11% coverage with fibre-to-the-block. 27% get cable, but this is still subject to negotiations. The remaining 29% get to keep good old twisted pair.

    There’s some interesting discussion (audio) here.

    Telekom Romania is launching 1Gbps FTTH in 13 cities.

    Vodafone Qatar is backing out of its acquisition of the Qatar NBN.

    AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon weren’t blocking The Pirate Bay - BGP routing to it was broken.

    And over three thousand years of optical transmission since the beacons of antiquity, performance has improved by 25 orders of magnitude.

    VoWiFi in the Cloud; WebRTC codecs “really about Qualcomm”; Twilio fixes your NAT problem

    Genband’s Evolved Packet Gateway is now available as one of the apps in Nokia’s Liquid Core NFV solution, letting carriers integrate Voice-over-WiFi more easily. It’s a huge win for Genband.

    The IETF RTCWEB decision to include both VP8 and H.264 in WebRTC browsers should be seen as a compromise between the vendors’ desire to squeeze licensing costs out of cheap smartphones for Asia, Qualcomm’s desire to keep its licenses in them, and Cisco (and others’) desire to keep their existing hardware relevant.

    The deployment of VP9, though, will supercharge browsers and services while hitting the vendors with the costs in CPU usage and hardware acceleration it demands.

    Twilio is offering NAT-traversal in the cloud, which is likely, thanks to their scale, to be by far the cheapest provider.

    The Streaming Media conference talks are being released, and the one from Skype about how they work with media and other video production companies looks interesting.

    $5bn of IoT deals in 9 months; UK smart meters lagging badly; interview with VZW’s IoT CTO

    As much as $9.4bn has been spent on mergers & acquisitions in the Internet of Things sector over the last three years, with $5bn of that in the first 9 months of 2014. The biggest spenders are Google, Cisco, Samsung, and then a pair of telcos - Vodafone and Verizon. They’re paying top dollar, too, with an average price-revenue ratio of 11.9 for a typical $112m deal.

    That said, the UK smart-metering project is falling behind again. 18 months after it was delayed by 12 months, it’s been delayed by a further 12 months, and the project is responding to Freedom of Information Act requests like this:


    Chuck Link, the appropriately-named CTO of Verizon Telematics, says car manufacturers have moved on quickly to LTE, but future-proofing IoT features built into cars is difficult as cars have a much longer design life than anything in the IoT. Also, car manufacturers care much more about privacy than telcos, especially the German ones, and because German companies also make a lot of parts that go into other cars, this gives them a lot of influence. Here’s the video.

    Samsung re-org turns out to be “no change”; BlackBerry’s network turns out vital

    Samsung is leaving J. K. Shin in charge of the mobile business for the next year at least, after the disappointing sales of S5s led to concern that a big re-org was coming. Despite everything, nothing much has changed, although there may be lower-level changes later this week.

    Here’s a good piece on BlackBerry’s pivot towards services provided from its core network.

    Horace reckons Apple Pay can hit its targets.

    Germans knew about NSA ops in 2005; Dotcom still not locked up; Facebook “spends more” against crime than gov.uk

    A leaked document seems to show that the German government knew of NSA spying as long ago as 2005.

    Kim Dotcom’s bail has not been revoked, after US lawyers failed to convince a court they needed to lock him up. They did succeed in stopping him attending court in a helicopter, though. It must have been annoying.

    Malware is spreading through transport systems’ ticket kiosks.

    Did you know the UK spends less money fighting cyber-crime than Facebook?

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