Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Via Licensing Issues Call for Long Term Evolution Patents

Via Licensing Corporation issued a call for patents that are essential to the practice of the Long Term Evolution (LTE) platform. Any entity with a patent or patent application that is found to be essential by an independent patent evaluator is invited to join a group of essential patent holders that plan to convene to discuss the commercial terms of a joint patent license to be offered under reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms.

T-Mobile USA Adds 415K Mobile Customers, But Revenue Falls

In the first quarter of 2009, T-Mobile USA added 415,000 net new customers, down from 621,000 in the fourth quarter of 2008 and 981,000 in the first quarter of 2008.

Service revenues were $4.77 billion, compared to $4.90 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, and up from $4.57 billion in the first quarter of 2008. The sequential decrease in service revenues in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the fourth quarter of 2008 was primarily due to the fall in contract ARPU.

Blended Average Revenue Per User was $48 in the first quarter of 2009, compared to $50 in the fourth quarter of 2008 and $51 in the first quarter of 2008. Contract ARPU was $52 in the first quarter of 2009, down from $54 in the fourth quarter of 2008 and $55 in the first quarter of 2008. The decrease in contract ARPU sequentially and year-over-year was driven by lower variable revenues from contract customers as customers control their discretionary spending, for example by switching plans and incurring less roaming. Also, contract ARPU was impacted by monthly recurring charges per customer decreasing due to a change in the mix of the customer base. Prepaid ARPU was $21 in the first quarter of 2009, down from $23 in the fourth quarter of 2008 and $22 in the first quarter of 2008. Data services revenue was $935 million in the first quarter of 2009, representing 19.6% of blended ARPU, or $9.40 per customer, up from 18.5% of blended ARPU, or $9.30 per customer in the fourth quarter of 2008, and 16.6% of blended ARPU, or $8.50 per customer in the first quarter of 2008. Data services revenue increased 23% in the first quarter of 2009 versus the first quarter of 2008.

"The challenges of the U.S. economic downturn are evident in our first quarter performance," said Robert Dotson, president and CEO, T-Mobile USA. "That said, we remain confident that T-Mobile's bedrock wireless service remains the core value we offer American consumers backed by the best customer service in the industry. We will continue to bring this value to consumers every day. We remain on track with the aggressive national rollout of our 3G network in 2009. We'll also bring to market highly anticipated new devices and services that put us in a stronger position to capture the enormous opportunity in data services in the U.S. By concentrating and delivering on these growth fundamentals, we are well positioned to compete effectively for the consumers' hard-earned dollar."

ClearSight Releases Network Time Machine 7.0

ClearSight Networks released a new version of its network capture appliance, Network Time Machine (NTM), that enables network administrators to quantify voice quality on 3G mobile networks. The NTM 7.0 captures and analyzes data from audio and visual network transmissions -- such as video conferencing, multimedia entertainment services, telemedicine, surveillance, live video broadcasting and video-on-demand -- and makes measurements using MOS, R-values and other metrics.

ClearSight recently expanded the NTM feature set into the 10 Gb/s Ethernet arena; extended its reach to small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with the availability of ClearSight Network Time Machine (NTM) Express, a turn-key data capture and analysis system for enterprises looking for a cost-effective network recorder appliance; and enabled a new level of interoperability with Wireshark, a popular software protocol analyzer.

Other new features of the NTM 7.0 include:

  • New support for 3G-324M, the umbrella protocol for video telephony in 3G mobile networks,

  • Recognition and support of Ethernet jumbo framing of up to 64,000 bytes in size, and

  • Expanded support for TCP streams, a common protocol used in the transmission of network information.

Level 3 Expands Operations in Select U.S. Markets

Level 3 Communications is expanding its operations in Nashville, Seattle and Washington, D.C., areas, as well as upstate New York (Buffalo, Syracuse and Rome/Utica) and Colorado (Denver, northern Colorado and Colorado Springs). The company plans to expand this initiative to additional markets in 2009.

European Commission Pushes for Cost-Basis in Setting Mobile Termination Rates

The European Commission issued guidelines for EU telecoms regulators on the cost-based method to be used when calculating termination rates -- the wholesale fees charged by operators to connect the call from another operator's network.

The guidance is in the form of a "Recommendation" that national regulators are obliged to take "the utmost account" of. The Recommendation indicates specifically that termination rates at national level should be based only on the real costs that an efficient operator incurs to establish the connection.

The EC argues that eliminating price distortions between phone operators across the EU will lower consumer prices for voice calls within and between Member States, saving business and household customers at least €2 billion in 2009-2012, and help investment and innovation in the entire telecoms sector. The goal is to make termination rates converge to approximately 1.5 euro cents to 3 euro cents per minute by the end of 2012, significantly lower than they exist today. Termination rates should be based on the costs of an efficient operator and should apply to all operators at the same level. Exceptions are allowed in certain conditions, for a limited period of time, for cost differences outside an operator's control.

Mobile termination rates varied widely in the EU in 2008 from 2.00 euro cents per minute (in Cyprus) to 15 euro cents per minute (in Bulgaria). Mobile termination rates (on average 8.55 euro cents per minute) are also typically 10 times higher than fixed termination rates (on average ranging from 0.57 to 1.13 euro cents per minute). Higher mobile termination rates make it harder for fixed and small mobile operators to compete with large mobile operators. These divergences, and differing regulatory approaches, undermine the Single Market and Europe's competitiveness.

"Despite efforts by some national regulators to bring termination rates closer to their real costs, they remain very disparate across the EU, with large gaps between fixed and mobile termination rates. This is not in line with the increasing convergence between fixed and mobile telephony and can lead to serious distortions of competition between Member States and operators," said Viviane Reding, EU Telecoms Commissioner. "The Commission decided to intervene today against these distortions of competition in the Single Market, which deter investment into upgrading fixed networks to fibre and for which in the end consumers are paying the price."

"Bringing down termination rates to an efficient level will increase competition to the benefit of European consumers," said EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes: :Only a rigorous and harmonized approach to regulation will ensure that the existing distortions of competition are removed in the whole EU and that innovative new products combining fixed and mobile calls will emerge. This is why today's Commission decision is a milestone in the pro-competitive development of EU telecoms regulation. "

The EC further argues that the current mobile termination structure serves as an indirect subsidy that benefits mobile operators with a large market share to the detriment of smaller and fixed-line operators. They also direct funds away from critical investments like upgrades to high-speed internet networks, and hinder innovative services like converged fixed-mobile products and competitively-priced bundles of calls.

Cisco Signs China Telecom, China Mobile, and China Construction Bank

Cisco signed new framework agreements with China Telecom, China Mobile, China Construction Bank at the China-U.S. Strategic Economic Dialogue held last month in Washington. Financial terms were not disclosed.

"In the face of a challenging macro-economic environment, our commitment to China remains unchanged," said Owen Chan, president of Cisco Asia Pacific Operations. "We are highly honored to be one of the main companies involved in this round of China-U.S. economic cooperation, and these agreements are a testament to our commitment to and confidence in the country. Close collaboration with these important customers is aligned with Cisco's focus on creating win-win situations with local industry."

ST Develops Ultra-thin Lithium Batteries for Micropower Devices

STMicroelectronics has signed a commercial agreement with Front-Edge Technology (FET), a California-based developer of next-generation rechargeable batteries, enabling ST to bring FET's NanoEnergy ultra-thin lithium battery technology to a wide range of new markets and applications.

The new devices leverage solid-state thin-film technology to store energy for "micro-power" devices, such as high-end 'One-Time-Password' smartcards; battery-assisted RFID (Radio-Frequency ID) tags; wireless sensor networks; real-time clock (RTC) back-up batteries; and multiple medical applications, including hearing aids, automatic insulin pumps and wearable health monitoring systems.

The companies said a key advantage of the ultra-thin solid-state battery technology is its physical flexibility, enabling different sizes and shapes of "bendable" batteries, as thin as 200 microns. Additionally, the battery's solid electrolyte is Lithium Phosphorus Oxynitride (LiPON), a material originally developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratories. This enables the thin-film FET technology, in comparison with a device with equivalent energy storage capacity, to deliver in the range of 10 to 20 times more power than existing state-of-the-art coin-cell batteries.

TELUS Revenue Rises 1% in Q1, Worsening Conditions

Canada's TELUS reported Q1 revenue of $2.375 billion, an increase of $25 million or one per cent. The increase was driven primarily by three per cent growth in wireless revenue and six per cent growth in wireline data revenue, more than offsetting the ongoing declines in local and long distance wireline revenues. Net income in the first quarter was $322 million and earnings per share (EPS) were $1.01, an increase of 10 and 12 per cent respectively. Net income and EPS included favourable income tax-related adjustments of approximately $62 million or 20 cents per share this quarter, compared to $17 million or five cents in the same period a year ago. Excluding income tax-related adjustments in 2008 and 2009, net income and EPS were both down five per cent due to lower operating earnings.

TELUS wireless

  • External revenues increased by $30 million or 2.7% to $1.1 billion in the first quarter of 2009, compared with the same period in 2008.

  • Wireless data revenue increased $61 million or 41% due to the continued adoption of full function smartphones with increased use of data services such as messaging and social networking.

  • ARPU declined by 5.6% to $58.39 compared to the same quarter a year ago. The fast-growing data component of $11.26, represented 19% of ARPU, while the decline in the voice revenue worsened due to lower business-oriented Mike service revenue, increased use of in-bucket minutes, adoption of lower priced rate plans, decreased roaming revenues, and increased penetration of the Koodo brand.

  • Net subscriber additions were 48,000, a decrease of 46% from the same period a year ago. Postpaid net additions of 44,000 represented 92% of the total net additions.

TELUS wireline

  • External revenues decreased by $5 million or 0.4% to $1.2 billion in the first quarter of 2009, when compared with the same period in 2008, as data and other growth was more than offset by the decline in local and long distance revenues.

  • Data revenues increased by $32 million or 6.3% due to higher revenues from outsourcing services provided to business customers and the inclusion of an additional half-month of revenue from the Emergis acquisition on January 18, 2008. Increased enhanced data and hosting services, and high-speed Internet and TELUS TV subscriber growth also contributed to the increase.

  • TELUS added 14,000 high-speed Internet subscribers, a 30% decrease from a year ago, due to a maturing market, ongoing competition, and reduced household formation.

  • Network access lines (NALs) declined by 51,000 in the quarter to 4.2 million, which is down 3.9% from a year ago. Residential NAL losses of 41,000 improved year-over-year as cable-TV competitors digital telephone coverage expansion slowed, and from the benefit of bundling services, including TELUS TV. A decrease in business NALs was experienced in Western Canada.

  • TELUS TV surpassed the 100,000 subscriber milestone and is preparing to launch satellite TV service.

  • The company has provided revised 2009 guidance to update its original targets announced in December 2008. The revisions reflect the worsening Canadian economy since that time, weaker than expected wireless results at TELUS and the industry in the first quarter, and the company's most recent outlook. Wireless and wireline revenue have been adjusted down by a total of approximately $350 million.

"Clearly, TELUS' wireless results do not meet the expectations we set late last year and are reflective of the weakening Canadian economy and competitive activity," said Darren Entwistle, TELUS president and CEO. "Given the current environment, TELUS has accelerated our efficiency initiatives. Accordingly, we have significantly increased our restructuring cost estimate for this year to approximately $125 million to drive efficiency and enhance our competitiveness."

Bosch and Siemens Hausgerate (BSH) Renews with AT&T

BSH Bosch and Siemens Hausgerate GmbH (BSH), one of the world's leading producers of household appliances, has renewed its global networking agreement with AT&T.

Under the contract, AT&T will operate and monitor a BSH wide area network, which includes more than 800 network nodes throughout the world. This will link BSH's data centres, production sites and distribution centres in 25 countries spread throughout Europe, USA, Latin America and Asia. The agreement will run for three years and is worth $10.4 million. AT&T has been providing the WAN solution for BSH since 2004.

Qwest Teams with AT&T for Free Wi-Fi for DSL Customers

Qwest has begun providing its broadband subscribers with complimentary, unlimited nationwide access to 17,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, including popular coffee shops, bookstores and restaurants. The service is provided through an agreement with AT&T. All current and new Qwest High-Speed Internet customers are automatically eligible and can look for the "QwestWiFi" service set identifier or SSID, which will be rolling out to venues over the next couple of weeks.

Cablevision Sees Telecom Revenues Rise 5% in Q1

Cablevision, which serves the NY metro area, reported that its Telecommunications Services net revenues for first quarter 2009 rose 5.3% to $1.328 billion. Cable Television revenues increased 4.8% to $1.272 billion, principally driven by the growth in digital video, high-speed data, and voice customers as well as higher rates reflected in first quarter 2009 results.

Some network highlights:

  • Basic video customers down 6,300 or 0.2% from December 2008 and down 23,100 or 0.7% from March 2008

  • iO: Interactive Optimum digital video customers up 9,400 or 0.3% from December 2008 and 177,500 or 6.7% from March 2008

  • Optimum Online high-speed data customers up 29,800 or 1.2% from December 2008 and 141,700 or 6.0% from March 2008

  • Optimum Voice customers up 51,400 or 2.7% from December 2008 and 244,500 or 14.5% from March 2008

  • Revenue Generating Units up 84,200 or 0.8% from December 2008 and 540,600 or 5.5% from March 2008

  • Cable Television RPS of $136.55, up $1.70 or 1.3% from the fourth quarter of 2008 and up $6.99 or 5.4% from the first quarter of 2008

  • Optimum Lightpath -- For first quarter 2009, Lightpath net revenues rose 8.0% to $64.2 million, due principally to the continued expansion of the more efficient, higher margin Ethernet business and includes the impact of the acquisition of 4Connections in October 2008.

Veraz Releases ControlSwitch IPX Compliant Platform

Veraz Networks announced the general availability of its IPX compliant solution, Release 5.8 of the ControlSwitch VoIP switching platform. Release 5.8 delivers improved interconnection, enhanced security and reduced OPEX for wholesale operators and their mobile operators, and is being deployed in service provider networks.

ControlSwitch R5.8 includes Veraz's Global Multimedia Exchange (GMX) offering, which is used by service providers building GSMA-compliant IP Packet Exchange (IPX) networks. In addition, the GMX enables operators to interconnect multiple network properties with a common IP backbone. The GMX solution delivers enhanced security and session management while reducing operating expenses through centralized management, billing, and routing. GSM and CDMA mobile operators, wholesale customers, and multi-property operators use the GMX solution as a secure platform for interconnection and a means to differentiate service offerings.

Veraz noted that its ControlSwitch R5.8 uniquely offers ISDN User Part (ISUP) variant interworking over SIP-I. This enables interconnect carriers to interwork calls using standards-based ANSI ISUP over SIP-I to any ETSI ISUP variant over SIP-I. With most other solutions, operators cannot interwork ISUP variants over SIP-I. With MTP3 User Adaption Layer (M3UA) protocol support, the ControlSwitch enables a service provider to continue to leverage legacy networks, but with the added flexibility of IP transport and available quality of service.

Release 5.8 also includes ControlSwitch optimized transcoding which reduces costs by allowing service providers to use media gateway transcoding resources more efficiently. With Release 5.8, transcoding resources can be deployed anywhere in the network and then used by any call on an individual basis. This minimizes the total cost for transcoding and maximizes voice quality by avoiding unnecessary transcoding cycles. Alternative approaches require the deployment of transcoding at each media gateway, resulting in higher capital expenditures, and frequently degraded voice quality through repetitive transcoding cycles.

Deutsche Telekom Reports Stability Despite Economic Headwinds

In the first three months of 2009, Deutsche Telekom generated revenue of EUR 15.9 billion, 6.2 percent more than in the first quarter of 2008. Adjusted EBITDA increased by 2.7 percent to EUR 4.8 billion. Without the inclusion of recently acquired OTE (Greece), revenue in the first quarter was stable at EUR 15.0 billion and adjusted EBITDA declined 4.8 percent to EUR 4.5 billion.

DT's Fixed-network business in Germany and abroad, mobile business in Germany and across most of Europe, and T‑Systems, performed in line with or slightly above expectations during Q1.

In contrast, the mobile communications companies in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland all reported decreases, attributable in part to the economic downturn, a more intense competitive environment and, concerning the European companies, to significant changes in exchange rates.

"In most areas of the Group, business is stable," the CEO continued. "But it's clear that we are fighting strong headwinds in some national companies. We have responded to the situation and put in place a comprehensive package of measures," stated CEO René Obermann.

Some highlights from the report:

Mobile Communications

The mobile communications companies in Europe and the United States served over 148 million customers at March 31. This represents a year-on-year increase of 20.6 percent. Revenue increased by 9.0 percent to EUR 9.2 billion. The companies of OTE subsidiary COSMOTE contributed revenue of EUR 0.5 billion. By the end of the quarter, COSMOTE's subsidiaries had 19.9 million mobile customers, including 5.6 million contract customers.

T‑Mobile Deutschland's revenue remained largely stable in the fiercely competitive domestic market, down just 0.5 percent to EUR 1.9 billion. Adjusted EBITDA was EUR 0.7 billion and also declined only slightly by 1.0 percent. The decreases were higher in the same period last year, with revenue down by 3.4 percent and EBITDA 1.1 percent.

T‑Mobile USA reported revenue growth of 19.5 percent to EUR 4.1 billion and an increase in adjusted EBITDA of 9.8 percent to EUR 1.1 billion. Measured in U.S. dollars, the growth in revenue was significantly lower, at 4.1 percent, while EBITDA decreased by 4.4 percent. The impact of the marked downturn in the economic environment was felt as much in the United States as in the United Kingdom and Poland, where negative exchange rate effects further intensified the declining trend in revenue and earnings.

Data business continued to develop positively. In Europe, non-voice revenue increased by more than 40 percent year-on-year to EUR 432 million in the first three months. The Web'n'Walk service is now used by 6.5 million customers in six countries (D, UK, NL, A, CZ, PL). The first quarter alone saw 636,000 customers opting for a corresponding rate plan. This is an increase of 53 percent compared with the same quarter last year. The trend at T-Mobile USA is also positive, where non-voice revenue on a dollar basis increased year-on-year by 31 percent to USD 467 million.

Broadband/Fixed Network

The figures for the Broadband/Fixed Network segment are largely influenced by the first-time inclusion of OTE. Revenue increased by 3.6 percent to EUR 5.9 billion and adjusted EBITDA by 6.2 percent to EUR 2.0 billion. The volume of international business virtually doubled as a result of the consolidation of OTE. Revenue generated outside of Germany totaled EUR 1.1 billion, with adjusted EBITDA at EUR 0.4 billion in the first quarter of 2009. At March 31, Deutsche Telekom's international subsidiaries served around 3.2 million retail DSL customers, including 1.6 million at OTE's subsidiaries in Greece and Romania.

As expected, T‑Home's revenue from business in Germany declined 5.7 percent to EUR 4.8 billion in the first quarter as a result of losses caused by regulatory factors. Thanks to systematic cost discipline, adjusted EBITDA decreased just 2.5 percent in the same period to EUR 1.6 billion. The figures include the new Deutsche Telekom Business Customers business unit with around 160,000 customers. The prior-year figures were adjusted for better comparability.

T‑Home reported a DSL net add market share of around 53 percent; a record high since the complete packages have been introduced. 390,000 new retail broadband customers have been added, up 14.9 percent year-on-year, bringing the number of retail DSL customers to 11 million. The number of line losses in the German fixed network caused by competitive and regulatory factors totaled around 360,000 in the first three months of 2009. In addition, some 240,000 lines were lost as a result of the transfer of DSL resale customers to the all-IP platform.

Systems Solutions

T-Systems' international revenue increased by 6.4 percent and continued the positive development of the prior quarters. This positive trend is partly attributable to contracts signed, for example with Shell and OMG, in 2008. In contrast, revenue in Germany declined 8.2 percent. This decrease in domestic revenue is largely due to the reduced volume of internal business with Deutsche Telekom, which was down 12.4 percent. Total revenue in the first quarter of 2009 amounted to EUR 2.1 billion, a year-on-year decrease of 4.3 percent. External revenues remained virtually stable at the prior-year level, despite the generally difficult market situation.

New orders in the first quarter of 2009 were down 14.7 percent year-on-year. This is mainly because last year's figures included a major deal with Shell.