Thursday, January 25, 2018

Verizon conducts 400G trial in Dallas

Verizon completed a field trial that delivered live 400 Gbps Ethernet traffic on a single wavelength between MPLS Core routers over its Packet-Optical network.

The test, which was completed in December 2017 using the Verizon network in the Dallas area, carried between two Juniper Networks PTX 5000 routers across the Ciena 6500 Packet-Optical Platform. The 400 Gbps interworking connection complied with IEEE Standard 802.3bs-2017, which was ratified in December 2017. 

Verizon said the field trial marks an important step toward advancing 400 Gbps transmission and router technology – vital to the continued growth of services and applications such as video streaming, virtual reality and cloud computing.
“We’re delivering more content and capacity than ever from our network and we’re gearing up to do more,” said Lee Hicks, vice president, Network Planning for Verizon. “The appetite from consumers and businesses alike continues to grow. This 400G trial demonstrates our relentless focus on building networks people want and need.”

Snowflake raises $263 million for data warehousing

Snowflake Computing, a start-up based in San Mateo, California, announced $263 million in new venture funding to support its data warehouse business built for the cloud.

The company said it is seeing a global surge in demand for Snowflake’s data-warehouse-as-a-service, which is now available across four AWS deployment zones. A big focus is on data analytics. The customer base grew by 300 percent in 2017. Notable accounts include Capital One, Lionsgate, Nielsen and

“Data is the currency of today’s economy and the data warehouse is the engine of that economy,” Snowflake CEO, Bob Muglia said. “But legacy technologies still hinder organizations from becoming modern, data-driven enterprises. Snowflake’s vision, which began with the data warehouse built for the cloud, has gained significant traction with enterprises across dozens of industries. Today’s announcement further validates Snowflake’s continued mission to enable a true data economy by removing the barriers that prevent enterprises from easily acquiring insight from all their data no matter where that data resides.”

The new funding was led by ICONIQ Capital, Altimeter Capital and newcomer Sequoia Capital. Snowflake’s existing funding partners also invested in the round: Capital One Growth Ventures, Madrona Venture Group, Redpoint Ventures, Sutter Hill Ventures and Wing Ventures. With this round of funding, Snowflake’s pre-money valuation is $1.5 billion. Since its founding in 2012, Snowflake has raised a total of $473 million.

Snowflake is headed by Bob Muglia, who previously was president of Microsoft’s $16 billion Server and Tools Business, responsible for products such as Windows Server, SQL Server, System Center and Windows Azure.

Intel, Huawei and DT complete 5G NR over-the-air test

Intel, Deutsche Telecom and Huawei conducted an over-the-air test showcasing 5G interoperability and development testing (IODT) based on the Release 15 NSA 5G NR specification.

The test used Huawei's 5G commercial base station and Intel's third-generation 5G NR Mobile Trial Platform. The configuration was based on the largest C-band cell bandwidth defined by the 5G NR standard, incorporating the latest Massive MIMO multi-antenna and beamforming technology. Massive MIMO uses a large array of antennas to provide precise control of a beam to improve network coverage and to reduce overall network interference.

Ford acquires Palo Alto-based Autonomic for cloud platform for mobility apps

Ford Motor Company announced its acquisition of Autonomic, a start-up based in Palo Alto, California that is developing an open cloud-based platform "for connecting and empowering tomorrow’s mobility systems." Financial terms were not disclosed.

Autonomic said it is working on building blocks for smart mobility applications and services. Ford said the acquisition will accelerate the automaker’s mission to establish the Transportation Mobility Cloud platform and support its plans to scale up other key mobility initiatives, including the drive toward full connectivity, Chariot and non-emergency medical transportation.

Ford also announced the acquisition of TransLoc, a Durham, North Carolina-based provider of demand-response technology for city-owned microtransit solutions.

“We believe transportation done right – as part of a systems approach – can bring life back to our cities,” said Marcy Klevorn, president, Ford Mobility. “By accelerating our delivery of mobility services through the changes we are making today, we are enabling that revival, enhancing our competitiveness and creating long-term value for Ford shareholders.”

Ford has outlined a strategy with the following components:

  • Transportation operating system: The company’s open, cloud-based platform – the Transportation Mobility Cloud that manages information flow and basic transactions between a variety of components in the transportation ecosystem – will be expanded beyond Ford to include other automakers, suppliers, partners and cities; a developer network to build and support the system also will be launched.
  • Connectivity: Preparing to deliver digital services to personal, fleet and city customers, Ford’s mobility team will deliver on the company’s commitment of 100 percent connectivity of new vehicles in the United States by 2019 and push toward its goal of 90 percent connectivity globally by 2020.
  • Ride sharing: Chariot, the cornerstone of Ford’s microtransit solutions, will see an acceleration of city launches globally this year; launches will be based on a major shift in focus to the unit’s enterprise business, which provides employee transportation services for businesses. Just last week, Ford announced the launch of service in Columbus, Ohio – Chariot’s fifth city.
  • Non-emergency medical transportation: Tapping into the growing healthcare transportation market, Ford Mobility will expand its non-emergency medical transportation operation from a Southeast Michigan pilot with Beaumont Health into a full business serving multiple medical systems.
  • Vehicle Management as a Service: Founded in 2017, Ford Commercial Solutions is leveraging vehicle connectivity to deliver data services and fleet optimization to the commercial segment, building on the automaker’s historical strength in serving fleet customers. Ford Commercial Solutions will expand its offerings globally this year.

SES-14 and Al Yah 3 satellites reach orbit despite Ariane 5 anomaly

An Ariane 5 rocket launched from the Guiana Space Center (CSG) suffered an anomaly during the second stage separation process. Ground tracking stations lost telemetry contact with the rocket and its two satellite payloads shortly after the second stage separation. An investigation is underway. The CEO of Arianespace issued an apology. Two hours later, Arianespace confirmed that both of the satellites in its payload reached orbit and are communicating.

The mission carried SES-14, the second of SES' hybrid satellite to be launched. SES-14 was equipped with C-band wide beams will help cable and IP operators gain more viewers in Latin America, as well as provide maritime managed connectivity service across the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, HTS spot beams are designed for in-flight connectivity aboard commercial aircraft over the Atlantic provided by Global Eagle, Gogo and Panasonic. The satellite is also hosted a NASA scientific payload called "GOLD" that will enable scientists to study the border between earth and space. SES-14 is the first high-power satellite in the 4-tons class. It was built by Airbus.

The Ariane 5 mission also carried the Al Yah 3 satellite for the United Arab Emirates operator
Yahsat (Al Yah Satellite Communications Company), which is the first company in the Middle East and Africa to offer Ka-band services reaching 60% of Africa’s population and over 95% of Brazil’s population from its geostationary position at at 20° West Longitude. The Al Yah 3 satellite carries 53 active Ka-band user beams and four gateway beams, and produces approximately 8.0 kilowatts of payload electrical power. It was built by Orbital ATK using its new GEOStar-3 hybrid platform.

Intel's data centric revenue grew 21% in Q4

Intel reported Q4 2017 revenue of $17.1 billion and record full-year revenue was $62.8 billion. Excluding McAfee, fourth-quarter revenue grew 8 percent year-over-year with data-centric revenue up 21 percent, and full-year revenue grew 9 percent year-over-year.

  • Data-centric businesses, which accounted for 47% of Intel's fourth-quarter revenue, an all-time high.
  • The Data Center Group (DCG), Internet of Things Group (IOTG) and Programmable Solutions Group (PSG) all achieved record quarterly revenue. 

"2017 was a record year for Intel with record fourth-quarter results driven by strong growth of our data-centric businesses," said Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO. “The strategic investments we've made in areas like memory, programmable solutions, communications and autonomous driving are starting to pay off and expand Intel's growth opportunity. In 2018, our highest priorities will be executing to our data-centric strategy and meeting the commitments we make to our shareholders and our customers."

Qualcomm launches 5G Pioneer initiative with Chinese brands

Qualcomm is launching a "5G Pioneer" Initiative supported by leading Chinese manufacturers of smartphones to introduce 5G devices as early as 2019.

Representatives from Lenovo, OPPO, vivo, Xiaomi, ZTE and Wingtech Technology Co. joined Qualcomm in the announcement.

“5G will bring massive new opportunities to the mobile industry, and we are excited to work with these manufacturers on this 5G Pioneer Initiative,” said Cristiano Amon, president, Qualcomm Incorporated. “Qualcomm Technologies has close relationships within China’s mobile and semiconductor ecosystem, and we’ll continue to work with this ecosystem to drive innovation as we move from the 3G/4G era to the 5G era.”

Cumulus raises $43 million for its open networking

Cumulus Networks, which offers a Linux operating system environment for open networking, announced $43 million in new funding. Cumulus plans to expand its sales force and invest in growing its marketing programs, with a particular focus on reaching new customers in EMEA and Asia Pacific.

Cumulus's mission is "to free customers from expensive proprietary network stacks and bring the automation, agility and scalability of web-scale networks to companies of all sizes."

The company cited the following recent milestones:

  • During 2017, the company signed over 350 new customers and now serves more than 800 customers, including over a third of the Fortune 50.
  • Growth outside the U.S. was particularly strong. Cumulus tripled its business in the Asia Pacific region and more than doubled its business in EMEA during 2017.
  • Cumulus Networks debuted in the Visionaries quadrant of the 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Center Networking.
  • In October 2017, Cumulus was inducted into the Innovation Hall of Fame by JP Morgan Chase.
  • During 2017, the company released new solutions including NetQ, a telemetry-based fabric validation system; Host Pack, software essentials for the host enabling web-scale networking for containers, microservices and more; and Cumulus in the Cloud, a personal virtual data center to build and test network designs and operations.

The new funding round was led by Telstra Ventures. All existing investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Battery Ventures and Sequoia Capital participated. This brings total funding to $129 million.

“There’s a striking variety in our customer base, which ranges from large financial and healthcare institutions, to breakout SaaS stars, to some of the world’s largest Internet companies,” said Josh Leslie, CEO of Cumulus Networks. “But the common thread running through them is that they are challenging the status quo of networking in their organizations and reaping huge operational benefits as a result. We’re honored to partner with Telstra in this journey. We are excited to use this investment to bring modern, scalable networks to even more organizations around the world, particularly to service providers who are beginning to move into the networking space.”

Cumulus Networks is based in Mountain View, California.

Microsemi's quarterly sales hit $468.7 million, up 7.6% yoy

Microsemi reported net sales for the first quarter of its fiscal year 2018, ended 31-Dec-2017, of $468.7 million, up 7.6 percent from the $435.5 million reported in the first quarter of 2017. GAAP gross margin for the first quarter of 2018 was 61.6 percent, inclusive of the effect of non-cash purchase accounting charges related to profit from acquired inventory of $5.2 million and $2.4 million in inventory charges related to the closure of a non-strategic operation. GAAP gross margin was 63.5 percent in the first quarter of 2017 and 64.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017. Non-GAAP gross margin for the first quarter of 2018 was 63.2 percent.

GAAP operating income and net income for the first quarter of 2018 were $59.5 million and $47.9 million, respectively, and included restructuring, facility closure and other related charges of $6.4 million and acquisition-related costs of $1.4 million. Non-GAAP operating income for the first quarter of 2018 was $150.8 million, up 13.6 percent from the $132.7 million reported in the first quarter of 2017.

"We kicked off the first quarter of fiscal 2018 with 8 percent year-over-year sales growth and 17 percent EPS growth," said James J. Peterson, Microsemi's chairman and CEO. "We are on a clear path to exceed our long-term 35 percent operating margin target as we leverage customer engagements, share gains and revenue growth into industry-leading profitability."

Deutsche Telekom rolls fiber to business parks

Deutsche Telekom is kicking off the second phase of a roll-out of fiber-optic lines to business parks across Germany.  The carrier plans to connect 7,600 enterprises through this campaign. The fiber upgrade will enable Internet connections of up to1 Gbps.

“Business parks are at the heart of our fiber-optic build-out strategy. We are thinking nationwide, urban and rural, north, south, east and west. The decisive factor for us is customer demand, and we are pleased to be able to offer our business customers fiber-optic lines in a further 33 communities across the country,” says Hagen Rickmann, Director for Business Customers at Telekom Deutschland.

The German towns and cities whose business parks are being upgraded include: Amberg, Bielefeld, Bochum, Bonn, Braunschweig, Bremen, Cologne, Dippoldiswalde, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Flörsheim, Frankfurt, Frechen, Großbeeren, Hamburg, Hermsdorf, Hildburghausen, Hürth, Kelkheim, Kriftel, Langen, Leipzig, Lindlar, Lübeck, Mannheim, Markkleeberg, Nienburg, Oldenburg, Pinneberg, Planegg, Potsdam, Sandersdorf-Brehna and Seevetal.

Cable Mergers and Spinoffs - Bigger is Better?

Nearly 15 months have passed since AT&T and Time Warner announced their $109 billion-dollar merger agreement. For most of 2017, the companies were confident that their merger would pass regulatory review by the Department of Justice and by the FCC. As the first big to face scrutiny from the income Trump administration, the presumption was that regulators would take a pro-business, hands-off approach especially since the companies do not compete in the same markets and hence would not be constricting the competitive field.  The predicted completion date was “by the end of 2017.” The deadline has now passed.  The new target is “by mid-2018.” 

What’s the hold-up? In late November, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a legal case to block the proposed AT&T + Time Warner merger, apparently on the grounds that the size of the combined company will but smaller players at a competitive disadvantage. So, the logic is that bigger is better, and, as a corollary, smaller is weaker. For AT&T and Time Warner to get to that mid-2018 merger completion date will now require a legal victory in a U.S. District Court.

The official response from AT&T is this “(the) DOJ lawsuit is a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent. Vertical mergers like this one are routinely approved because they benefit consumers without removing any competitor from the market. We see no legitimate reason for our merger to be treated differently” -  David R. McAtee II, Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel, AT&T Inc. 

For network operators – bigger is better, especially with content

Since the time the proposed acquisition was announced in October 2016, AT&T has been arguing that the primary driver for the deal is to bring content and distribution under one roof. The merger will combine Time Warner's library of content and ability to create new premium content with AT&T's extensive customer relationships, world’s largest pay TV subscriber base and scale in TV, mobile and broadband distribution.

As a reminder, Time Warner, which was formed in 1990 through the merger of Time Inc. and Warner Communications, encompasses many premium media properties, including HBO, New Line Cinema, Turner Broadcasting System, The CW Television Network, Warner Bros., CNN, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Adult Swim, DC Comics, Warner Bros. Animation, Castle Rock Entertainment, Cartoon Network Studios, Esporte Interativo, Hanna-Barbera Productions, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. It also owns 10% of Hulu.

The basic idea driving the merger is for Time Warner to act as the content arm for AT&T, providing mobile and fixed broadband line subscribers with valuable material as part of a packaged service bundle. Consumers presumably would purchase an AT&T service bundle based on the perceived quality and value of the package rather than simply the lowest price for mobile connectivity. This will allow ARPU to rise and ensure a 'stickiness' factor that goes beyond the latest mobile handset deals, currently a leading cause for subscriber churn.

So, until we hear otherwise or until the courts rule that the merger is impermissible, the presumption is that “bigger is better” and that AT&T and Time Warner will continue to pursue their business combination.

A mobile + cable merger in Sweden

Earlier this week, another merger was proposed also on the premise that bigger is better. Tele2 and Com Hem agreed to a merger that will create the second largest mobile telephony and fixed broadband provider in Sweden (after Telia) and the market leader in digital TV. Com Hem’s shareholders will receive as merger consideration SEK 37.02 in cash plus 1.0374x new B shares in Tele2 for each share in Com Hem. This values the deal at about US$3.3 billion.

Com Hem operates a fiber-coax network serving approximately 1.5 million residential customers across Sweden. The company was established in 1983 and has approximately 1,200 employees. Its head office is in Stockholm.

Tele2, which was established in 1993 and is based in the Kista Science City, Stockholm, Sweden, operates an extensive mobile network across Sweden and has interests in The Netherlands, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Croatia, and Germany.

The combined company will have a customer base of 3.9 million mobile customers, 0.8 million broadband customers, and 1.1 million digital TV customers in Sweden. Its 4G network will cover the entire country while its broadband network will cover almost 60 percent of Sweden’s households.
In presenting their merger to investors and to the press, Tele2 officials spoke of “evolving customer needs” and the appetite for digital content. As with the AT&T + Time Warner deal, there is an impetus to bring mobile, broadband and TV content under one roof.  

Some Service Providers are downsizing

One network operator moving in the opposite direction. Altice, the French operator led by business tycoon Patrick Drahi, who is known for ownership of his French cable operator Numericable.
Through a series of deals, in 2013 Drahi acquired SFR, France’s second largest mobile phone and internet provider from Vivendi. In late 2014, Altice acquired Virgin Mobile France for €325 million. The following year, Altice acquired Portugal Telecom and sold Cabovisão to Apax France. The hunger to grow bigger continued with a bid to acquire Bouygues Telecom, the third largest telecoms company in France. This merger was rejected by Bouygues Telecom. By then, Drahi had his sights on the U.S. cable market. In May 2015, Altice spent $9.1 billion to acquire a 70% controlling stake in Suddenlink Communications, which valued the seventh-largest U.S. cable company. This was soon followed in September 2015 with a $17.7 billion deal to acquire Cablevision, the dominant cable operator in the New York metropolitan area market. This deal was consummated in June 2016, making the new Altice USA into the #4 cable operator in the U.S. with more than 4.6 million Cablevision and Suddenlink customers across 20 states.

Many of the deals were accomplished with private equity debt. Now, 18 months after the transaction was completed, it appears that Altice has a case of indigestion. Perhaps bigger is not better, or maybe compelling content synergies have not been found across these diverse markets. Is there enough content synergy between France and New York to truly make one Altice brand?

This week, Altice N.V. announced a corporate restructuring centered on the separation of Altice USA from Altice Europe. The separation is to be effected by a spin-off of Altice NV’s 67.2% interest in Altice USA through a distribution in kind to Altice NV shareholders. Following the spinoff, the two companies will be led by separate management teams. Patrick Drahi, who will retain control of both companies, issued the following statement: “The separation will allow both Altice Europe and Altice USA to focus on their respective operations and execute against their strategies, deliver value for shareholders, and realize their full potential. Both operations will have the fundamental Altice Model at their heart through my close personal involvement as well as that of the historic founding team."

See also