Wednesday, February 2, 2005

BT Issues Equal Access Proposal, Seeking Settlement with Regulator

BT unveiled a set of proposals to offer competitve operators lower wholesale prices, faster broadband services and transparent, highly regulated access to BT's local network. BT hopes the proposals could form part of a regulatory settlement between itself, the national telecoms regulator (Ofcom) and the industry. Key points of the proposal include:

  • BT to set up an Access Services Division to provide transparent and equal access to BT's local network. This "fenced off" part of the business would remain within BT and would have responsibility for ensuring equal access to the services and assets associated with the local loop. Equality of Access Board, with two independent members chosen in consultation with Ofcom, would oversee its operations.

  • BT to cut a range of wholesale broadband prices and introduce faster services

  • BT to reaffirm its commitment to local loop unbunbling (LLU). BT also proposes a further price cut to the fully unbundled LLU product

  • BT to increase the commercial attractiveness of Wholesale Line Rental

  • BT to provide fair access to its 21st Century Network

As part of this proposed settlement, Ofcom would:

  • Focus regulation on BT's local network through its Access Services Division

  • Roll back other regulation on a progressive and rapid basis

  • Allow successful investment in next generation networks to be properly rewarded

  • Allow BT to compete on a level basis with other operators in the market

BT said its chief aim was regulatory certainty to invest and innovate with confidence. BT has plans to invest up to £10 billion in the creation of a 21st Century Network over the next five years.However, BT said these plans are dependent upon receiving assurances it can generate appropriate economic returns from its investment.

BT chief executive Ben Verwaayen said: "The United Kingdom has the opportunity to create the most exciting and innovative telecoms market in the world. Ofcom has recognised this and has initiated a Review with the aim of creating a new regulatory framework to make this happen. BT has a critical part to play, and today we are making a set of far-reaching proposals towards that framework."
  • In November 2004, Ofcom, the official telecom regulator in the U.K., published its proposals to support the growth of greater competition, innovation and investment certainty in the UK telecommunications sector. The proposals are intended to prepare the ground for a new regulatory framework as the market undergoes a migration to next-generation networks based on IP. Following a strategic review of the market, Ofcom said it has identified two key problems:

    Firstly, an unstable market structure in fixed telecoms, dominated by BT and with alternative providers that are, in the main, fragmented and of limited scale.

    Secondly, the continuance of a complex regulatory mesh, devised over twenty years of regulation and in many areas dependent upon intrusive micro-management to achieve its purposes, yet which, in aggregate, has failed effectively to address the core issue of BT's control of the UK-wide access network.

    Rather than a breakup of BT, Ofcom said it prefers an approach that requires BT to deliver real equality of access. Ofcom is proposing that the most effective way to deliver the changes required will be for regulation to address head-on the barriers preventing competitive wholesale access to BT's network. Real equality of access would mean that BT must offer competitors the same or similar wholesale products and prices, as are made available by BT to its own retail businesses, and; transactional processes, as are made available by BT for the use of its own retail businesses

  • In June 2004, BT outlined a five-year timetable for migrating its circuit-based voice services to IP. The mass migration of customers from PSTN to IP will begin in 2006 and, by 2008, BT expects a majority of the transformation will be completed. BT's 21CN initiative aims to migrate the company's existing multiple, service specific networks to a single converged multi-service IP based network. It includes work towards increasing the bandwidth of services provided over the copper access network as well as the trials of FTTP.

BT to Raise ADSL Speeds, Trim Wholesale Prices

BT Wholesale announced plans to deliver higher speed broadband services throughout the UK together with a range of wholesale broadband pricing initiatives. The changes came as part of BT response to the Ofcom Telecommunications Strategic Review .

Starting in April 2005, BT will begin a trial of higher speed services in the 2 Mbps to 8 Mbps range using existing ADSL technology. In addition, BT Wholesale plans to run initial trials of ADSL2+ technology to support higher speed services of up to 18 Mbps. Further details of the timing, scope and location of the trials will be provided over the next few weeks.

From April 2005, BT Wholesale plans to reduce the wholesale cost to service providers of BT IPStream ADSL products by an average of about 8% in areas where there is a combination of high customer demand, high take up and lower costs. The reduction will be delivered as a rebate to the service provider of £1.10 per BT IPstream Home end user and £1.40 per BT IPstream Office and S product end user.

The company announced it will also reduce the costs for BT Datastream ADSL service providers at the same time to ensure continued compliance with the regulatory margin rule. Given current market and regulatory conditions, BT said it does not expect to make any further significant price changes to the existing ADSL IP Stream rental charges over the next 12 months, other than potentially some changes to support the take up of higher bandwidth services.

BT Wholesale has also announced it plans further price cuts for Local Loop Unbundling operators. BT would hope to cut the monthly rental on the fully unbundled local loop product by a similar proportion to the BT IPstream reduction. This will be subject to the speedy and satisfactory conclusion of two related Ofcom consultations and the wider review as well as following normal regulatory processes.

BT Wholesale expects that by the end of March 2005, LLU operators will be providing service from more than 600 exchanges with many of them having multiple operators providing service.

Wabash Mutual Deploys Occam's Broadband Loop Carrier

Wabash Mutual Telephone Company, an independent operating company (IOC) in Celina, Ohio, has chosen Occam Networks' BLC 6000 System to deliver triple play services, voice, high-speed data and video, in a multi-year access network upgrade project.

Wabash Mutual is transitioning its entire network to an all-IP network. Occam's BLC 6000 Central Office Terminal (COT) is installed in the company's Central Office (CO) and connected to the company's MetaSwitch softswitch. BLC 6000s have been installed in two remote locations and are providing voice and high-speed data services to subscribers. An additional two remote locations will be brought on line shortly. Wabash plans to deliver IP video to subscribers during the year.

TelCove Acquires KMC Telecom

TelCove will acquire certain network assets and customers of KMC Telecom, significantly extending its CLEC prescence in Florida. TelCove will acquire 21 of KMC's markets, 18 of which represent new coverage areas, while three represent augmentations to existing TelCove markets. The acquisition will add approximately 1,050 local fiber route miles, 47 POPs and 202 lit commercial buildings.

Upon the closing of this transaction, TelCove will serve 70 markets throughout the eastern half of the United States and have 3,345 lit buildings. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Kasenna Supplies IPTV for Ultra-Luxury Hotel in Abu Dhabi

Kasenna has supplied its IPTV system for what is described as the world's most advanced multimedia guest room system at the seven-star Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Kasenna's TimelessTV allows hotel guests to capture 50 TV channels in real time with the ability to record, pause, rewind and fast-forward through live video. The system also provides VOD as well as 24 hours of interactive playback of previously recorded content. Bond Communications served as the main audio-visual and multimedia contractor for the Emirates Palace hotel.

WSJ: Qwest in Talks to Buy MCI

The Wall Street Journal reported that Qwest Communications is offering about $6.3 billion to acquire MCI. People close to the situation report that MCI is eager for a deal, although a rival bid from Verizon is possible, according to the article. Neither company has commented on the speculation.

Dust Networks Secures $22 Million for Wireless Sensor Networks

Dust Networks, a start-up based in Berkeley California, raised $22 million in equity funding for its enterprise-class low-power wireless mesh networking systems. Dust Networks' SmartMesh products provide a way to deploy wireless sensors that collect data about physical environments. The technology is aimed at enterprise-class monitoring and control applications in building automation, industrial monitoring and security markets, including energy monitoring, HVAC systems, machine-health, and perimeter security.

The funding was led by Crescendo Ventures. Cargill Ventures participated in this series B round, along with existing investors Foundation Capital and Institutional Ventures Partners. This new funding, which brings Dust Networks' total investment to-date to $30 million, comes after a recent product launch and successful customer trials.

Separately, Dust Networks announced that it had been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to participate in an initiative aimed at making America's commercial and residential buildings more energy efficient. Dust Networks will work with SVA Lighting, USA and Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to create an advanced lighting system that will enable organizations to implement wireless lighting control strategies without incurring hefty wiring costs.

Nokia Signs a WCDMA 3G Contract with Far EasTone

Nokia has signed a WCDMA 3G network expansion agreement with Far EasTone Telecommunications Ltd. (FET) and its subsidiary Yuan-Ze in Taiwan, marking a new customer for Nokia. The deal covers the delivery of Nokia WCDMA 3G radio access network equipment and services in central and southern Taiwan. In addition the agreement also includes the Nokia NetAct network and service management system and an extensive range of services such as installation, commissioning, integration, project management and care services. Deliveries will begin immediately and the network is expected to be operational in 2005. Financial terms were not disclosed.

SunRocket Names Kevin Bennis as CEO

SunRocket named Kevin Bennis as President and CEO. Bennis has previously served as President of MCI's Systems Integration Division, President and COO of Avantel, and as President and CEO of Sprint Canada/Call-Net Enterprises. Earlier, Bennis was the President of Frontier Communications, leading the company's $1.9 billion integrated communications business.

Alcatel Reports Q4 Revenue of EUR 3.812 Billion

Alcatel reported Q4 revenue of EUR 3.812 billion, up 10.7% year over year (13.4% at constant exchange rate). Income from operations amounted to EUR 393 million, a 10.3% operating return on sales. Some highlights:

  • Q4 gross margin was 34.4%.

  • Q4 revenues for the Fixed communications division decreased by 1.6% to EUR 1.533 billion compated to the same period last year.

  • Optical networks registered a significant increase due to growth in optical multi-service networks with good traction coming from new products such as metro core cross connects.

  • The access business was down due to a continued softness in North America with the carriers' transition to new triple play technologies, and to some timing delays in Chinese operators' decision to deploy equipment.

  • DSL volume shipments were registered at 4.8 million, bringing the cumulative total for the year to 19.6 million, a 24% increase over 2003.

  • The data business registered a strong performance in the quarter with continued strength in MSWAN, driven by broadband aggregation, and with a good ramp-up in IP service routers.

  • Fifteen new wins were registered during the quarter for the IP multi-service edge router solution, including significant wins in North America and China, bringing the full year cumulative total to 56 customers.

  • The traditional voice switching business decline was somewhat offset by maintenance services and revenue recognition from NGN replacement business.

  • Twenty new customers were added during the fourth quarter for the NGN product portfolio, bringing the cumulative total to 85 customers.

  • Video solutions registered a strong quarter with revenue coming from Taiwan, Russia, and various countries in Western Europe.

  • Q4 revenue for Mobile communications increased by 27.2% to EUR 1.076 billion compared to the same period last year. Continued strong growth was registered in emerging markets, with revenue coming from Russia, Brazil, Algeria, Nigeria, and Thailand.

  • Q4 revenue for the Private communications division increased by 12.1% to EUR 1.236 billion compared the same period last year. The IP telephony business in Enterprise, representing one-third of the enterprise voice shipments, once again registered a strong performance in Europe. Business in Asia, in particular China, gained momentum due to high-end customer demand for a wide array of voice services. Genesys continued its strong performance, particularly in the US, moving more and more into large accounts as a result of strategic partnerships.

Fujitsu Announces Hybrid Ethernet and Metro ADM Chip

Fujitsu Microelectronics Europe (FME) introduced its ETHOS (ETHernet Over SDH/SONET) device for delivering full-rate Gigabit Ethernet and E1/DS1 access in metro and access networks. The device, which was designed in collaboration with AimCom, is a fully integrated, single chip, add-drop multiplexer. Four line ports at STM-4/OC-12 or STM-1/OC-3 are provided, each supporting direct connection to SFP modules. There are 4 E1/DS1 ports, and 4 Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet ports on the access side, as well as higher & lower order cross-connect fabrics and a Telecom bus for port expansion. Ethernet frames are mapped via GFP, LAPS, or PPP, Virtual Concatenation and low latency LCAS.

The advanced feature set further includes an integrated system timing generator, Ethernet flow control, support for Jumbo frames, TCP friendly rate controllers for fine grained bandwidth assignment, and packet insertion and extraction for next generation carrier class Ethernet applications. The device is designed in Fujitsu's 0.18 micron process. The first certified samples of ETHOS have been shipped to customers for development and system testing.

MCI Launches Private Line Ethernet in Nine European Countries

MCI launched a Private Line Ethernet service providing LAN-to-LAN connectivity for business customers in nine European countries. Companies with multiple business locations can establish seamless high-speed connections between two or more LANs within a city, throughout a country or across international borders with end-to-end service management by MCI.

MCI's Private Line Ethernet service runs over SDH technology using optical technology from Nortel, offers connectivity at speeds from 2 Mbps to 100 Mbps.

MCI Private Line Ethernet is currently available in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. MCI is offering service level commitment guarantees for on-time installation, service availability, mean time to repair and data throughput. Pricing is flat rate, based on the customer's installed bandwidth.

Linksys Announces New, ADSL2 and 2+ CPE

Linksys announced the availability of three new ADSL2+ products: the Linksys Wireless-G ADSL2+ Gateway (WAG54G v.2), the Linksys ADSL2+ Gateway with 4-Port Switch (AG241) and the Linksys ADSL2+ Modem (ADSL2MUE). ADSL2+ offers download speeds up to 25 Mbps, depending on line conditions and distance.

The Linksys Wireless-G ADSL2+ Gateway (WAG54G v.2) is an all-in-one wireless solution for Internet connectivity in the home, providing an ADSL2+ modem, Internet-sharing router, 4-port 10/00 switch and a wireless-G (802.11g) access point in one box. The built in wireless-G access point allows up to 32 wireless devices to connect to a network at up to 54Mbps.

The Linksys ADSL2 Gateway with 4 Port-Switch (AG241) is a wired solution providing many of the same features as the WAG54G, i.e. an ADSL modem, Internet-sharing router and 4-port 10/100 switch in one box. The ADSL2 Gateway helps includes a Stateful Packet Inspection firewall and can also serve as a DHCP server and supports up to five VPN tunnel endpoints., so users can connect securely to corporate networks.

The Linksys ADSL2 modem (ADSL2MUE) is compatible with the latest ADSL standards including ADSL2 and is upgradeable to ADSL2+. ADSL2 supports download speeds of up to 12 Mbps.

Comcast Tops 7 Million Cable Modem Subscribers

Comcast Cable reported revenue of $4.987 billion, representing a 10.6% increase from the prior year quarter. Video revenue increased 5.9% during the period, reflecting the addition of digital cable subscribers and price increases to our video service. Comcast Cable added more than 250,000 digital cable subscribers during the fourth quarter to end the period with greater than 8.6 million subscribers. Comcast Cable added 60,000 basic subscribers during the seasonally strong fourth quarter of 2004, ending the year at 21.548 million. For full-year 2004, Comcast Cable reported revenue of $19.321 billion, a 10.4% increase from the same period in 2003.

Some highlights of the quarterly report:

  • More than 8.6 million, or 40%, of subscribers now subscribe to Comcast Digital Cable. Comcast Cable added 8,000 basic subscribers during 2004, ending the year at 21.548 million.

  • Comcasts' ON DEMAND VOD service is taking off - customers ordered more than 560 million ON DEMAND programs during 2004. Comcast expects to exceed one billion VOD orders in 2005.

  • Comcast added more than 437,000 cable modem subscribers to end the quarter with nearly 7.0 million subscribers. Revenues for this service increased 35.9% from the prior year quarter to $855 million, reflecting solid subscriber growth and slightly higher average monthly revenue per subscriber for the quarter of $42.07, an increase from $41.33 during the same quarter of 2003.

  • Comcast High-Speed Internet service revenue increased 38.6% during the year ended December 31, 2004, to $3.124 billion, reflecting the record addition of 1.707 million new subscribers and stable average monthly revenue per subscriber for the year of $42.41 compared to $42.20 for 2003. Comcast High-Speed Internet service is now available to 40 million homes, almost all of Comcast's footprint, as compared to 35 million homes at the start of 2004.

  • For Q4, Comcast's Cable phone revenue declined 12.5% during 2004 to $701 million, the result of a 3.4% decrease in subscribers and a 4.9% decrease in average monthly revenue per subscriber to $46.90. Cable phone results reflect the company's ongoing focus on profitability, rather than unit growth, of its circuit-switched telephone business as it begins the transition to Comcast Digital Voice service using IP technology in 2005. Nevertheless, the company added more than 10,000 phone subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2004.

  • The company is preparing to launch Comcast Digital Voice. The VoIP service will be integrated with Comcast's video and High-Speed Internet services. Comcast expects to market Comcast Digital Voice service to 15 million homes by the end of 2005 with most markets launching in the second half of the year. Excluding phone revenue, which is expected to continue to decline in 2005, total revenue for Comcast Cable increased 11.5% during 2004 to $18.620 billion.

  • Cable capital expenditures for the year ended December 31, 2004, declined 11.6% to $3.622 billion compared to $4.097 billion in the prior year.

  • For 2005, Comcast expects consolidated revenue growth of approximately 10% and consolidated capital expenditures of approximately $3 billion.

Sprint Reports Record 1.58 Million Wireless Adds in Q4

Sprint posted record wireless and DSL subscriber gains along with a continued decline in long distance for Q4 2004. Total consolidated revenues for 2004 were $27.4 billion, a 5% increase compared to 2003. Fourth quarter revenues increased 4% compared to the year- ago period and were flat sequentially. In the quarter, Sprint reported a double-digit year-over-year increase in Wireless revenues and steady Local performance offset by a decline in Long Distance. In the quarter, each of Sprint's customer-facing sales units reported revenues consistent with third quarter levels. Some highlights:

  • Sprint had 1.58 million net wireless additions in Q4, including 526,000 from direct, 923,000 from wholesale and 133,000 through affiliate partners, making this a record quarter. Sprint had more than 17.8 million total direct customers at the end of 2004, reflecting a full-year increase of just under 2.0 million. At the end of the year, Wireless was serving a total of 24.8 million customers, an increase of 4.4 million, or 22%, from a year ago.

  • At the end of the year, Sprint had nearly 7.7 million direct wireless data subscribers, including 6.2 million Sprint PCS Vision subscribers. In the quarter, data contributed 9% to overall ARPU.

  • Sprint Local's total voice access lines in service declined 2.9%, or 229,000 lines, from the year-ago period as access lines continue to be impacted by wireless substitution and competition from cable providers.

  • Sprint Local added 60,000 DSL subscribers in the quarter and ended the year with nearly 500,000 customers, an increase of more than 60% from a year ago.

  • DSL service revenues reached nearly $225 million in 2004. This growth drove a 13% year-over-year increase in quarterly data revenues.

  • Sprint Local had 24,000 satellite video subscribers, an increase of more than 80% from 2004 third quarter.

  • In the quarter, Sprint's total voice revenues declined approximately 12% from the year-ago period and 5% sequentially. In addition to the higher billing adjustments, the sequential comparison was impacted by a favorable change in regulatory fee accounting related to an FCC ruling. In Q4, consumer voice revenues declined 25% compared to a year ago while business voice revenues, including wholesale and affiliates, declined by 8%.

  • Data revenues decreased 12% from the fourth quarter of 2003 and 5% sequentially. Frame Relay and Private Line services declined at low double- digit rates compared to the year-ago period while ATM revenues were 4% lower. Dedicated IP revenues increased 8% year-over-year and 4% sequentially, but this was more than offset by the impact from exiting Dial IP and Web Hosting services.

  • Full-year 2004 capital expenditures totaled $4.0 billion. In Wireless, Sprint invested $2.6 billion adding network capacity, improving coverage and beginning the EV-DO buildout. Long Distance invested $282 million maintaining and adding capacity to the network and deploying a Next Generation Voice Network for cable customers and new VoIP services. Local spent a little more than $1.0 billion adding new capabilities, supporting customer requirements and maintaining current facilities.

  • Q4 diluted earnings per share (GAAP) from continuing operations were 29 cents. This compares to 7 cents earnings per share in the fourth quarter of 2003.

  • Q4 free cash flow totaled $624 million and full-year free cash flow was $2.0 billion.

  • Net debt at year-end was approximately $12.6 billion, beating a year-end goal of $13 billion.

See also