Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bell Canada to Acquire Québec’s Astral

BCE (Bell) announced plans to acquire Montréal-based Astral Media Inc. (Astral), which operates specialty and pay television channels, radio stations, digital media properties and out-of-home advertising platforms in Québec and across the rest of Canada. The deal was at approximately CDN$3.38 billion, representing a premium of 39% based on Astral’s volume-weighted average closing share price on the TSX for the last five trading days.

Bell said the acquisition strengthens its competitive position in Canada's French-speaking market and directly supports its strategy of investment and innovation in broadband networks and content.

“Bringing together two respected and longstanding Montréal brands, Bell’s acquisition of Astral firmly
establishes our company as Québec’s media leader. Bell is gaining a well-seasoned national Astral
management team, dramatically expanding our French-language content, and more than levelling the
playing field with our largest broadcast media competitor in Québec. We greatly look forward to welcoming
Astral’s renowned leader Ian Greenberg to our Board of Directors,�? said George Cope, President and
CEO of BCE Inc. and Bell Canada.

Emerald Atlantis Signs TE SubCom for 100x100 Trans-Atlantic Cable

Emerald Networks has signed a system supply contract with TE SubCom for the construction of the Emerald Express Trans-Atlantic Cable System, which promises to deliver ultra-high capacity of 100 wavelengths operating at 100 Gbps along a low-latency route between New York and London.

Emerald Networks' submarine cable system span 6,700 km along the "Great Circle" route connecting North America to Europe via Iceland. The company has previous calculated that this northerly route will have a latency of less than 62 milliseconds round trip from New York to London, making it one of the fastest networks across the Atlantic.

Emerald Networks reports that a significant portion of the marine cable route survey has been completed and that the Emerald Express system could be ready for service in late 2013. The Emerald Express system will offer a high capacity connection to Iceland, with future expansion provided by a stubbed Branching Unit positioned off Ireland for direct connectivity into Portugal.

"The Emerald Express system’s combination of a 100x100Gbps per fiber pair design, unique route and optimized low latency will enable Emerald Networks to meet the tremendous demand for bandwidth driven by cloud services, while providing Iceland with the required connectivity to support data centers powered by long-term competitively
priced, 100% carbon free renewable energy,�? said Greg Varisco, President, Emerald Networks.
  • Dr. William C. Marra serves as Executive Chairman of Emerald Networks. Prior to retirement in late 2009, Dr. William C. Marra was the Vice President and General Manager of Tyco Telecommunications and was responsible for all facets of the business inclusive of Sales, Marine and Terrestrial Engineering and Operations, Manufacture, Research and Development. His pioneering work included many network architectural concepts used in undersea networks, such as the first transoceanic ring networks, the TPC-5 and TAT-12/13 Cable Networks.

NSN Appoints Chief Operating Officer

Nokia Siemens Networks has appointed Samih Elhage as its chief operating officer (COO), a new role at the company, reporting to Rajeev Suri (CEO).

Elhage was previously a senior advisor to leading private equity and global management consulting firms, focusing on investments and improving the operating performance of companies in the telecommunications sector. Prior to these advisory roles, until August 2010, Elhage held a number of leadership roles at Nortel, including president of Carrier Voice over IP and Applications Solutions and vice president of Corporate Business Operations.

Herbert Merz, who has been leading both Global Operations and Optical Networks for Nokia Siemens Networks, will focus on the optical business. Merz remains on the Executive Board and will continue to lead the Nokia Siemens Networks Germany supervisory board.

Sprint Calls Off Spectrum Hosting with LightSquared

Sprint cancelled a spectrum hosting agreement that was signed with LightSquared in June 2011, citing LightSquared's inability to resolve its regulatory issues. Sprint has returned $65 million in prepayments LightSquared made to cover costs that were not ultimately incurred by Sprint.

“Sprint has been and continues to be supportive of LightSquared’s business plans and appreciates the company’s efforts to find a resolution to the interference issues impacting its ability to offer service on the 1.6 GHz spectrum. However, due to these unresolved issues, and subject to the provisions of the agreement, Sprint has elected to exercise its right to terminate the agreement announced last summer. We remain open to considering future spectrum hosting agreements with LightSquared, should they resolve these interference issues, as well as other interested spectrum holders."
  • In June 2011, Sprint and LightSquared announced a 15-year agreement that includes spectrum hosting and network services, 4G wholesale, and 3G roaming. The deal would have given Sprint $9 billion in cash to build out its 4G network and provided LightSquared with a Tier-One partner for bringing its wholesale-only, nationwide LTE + L-Band broadband satellite service to market, should the FCC approve its GPS terrestrial interference mitigation proposals. Specifically, LightSquared agreed to pay Sprint to deploy and operate a nationwide LTE network that hosts L-Band spectrum licensed to or available to LightSquared. As a wholesale-only carrier with separate core network operations, LightSquared was planning to sell its 4G broadband capacity produced through this spectrum hosting relationship to Sprint, other wireless carriers, and retail partners.

China Mobile: the Chase for Value Added Services

China Mobile, the world's largest mobile operator, saw its revenue increase 8.8% in 2011 to RMB528.0 billion (US$83.6 billion) as it user base rose 11.2% to approach the 650 million mark. Profits rose 5.2% to RMB125.9 billion (US$19.9 billion), with profit margin reaching 23.8%. EBITDA rose 4.9% over last year to RMB251.0 billion, with EBITDA margin reaching 47.5%.

In a market described as "exuberant" for information and telecommunications service, China Mobile acknowledges that it must now face slower growth in user additions due to higher mobile penetration levels across China, intensified competition, industry convergence and a massive network upgrade to TD-LTE over the coming years. The company said its long-term strategy is to be a "Smart Pipe + Open Platform" extending across a full range of mobile life services.

Some notable operating metrics for China Mobile in 2011:

Added 65.55 million customers, bringing the total customer base close to 650 million by the end of 2011.

Total voice usage volume was 3,887.2 billion minutes, up 12.3% over last year.

Average minutes of usage per user per month (MOU) reached 525 minutes.

Average revenue per user per month (ARPU) was RMB71 (US$11.24).

Data services revenue increased 15.4% over last year, accounting for 26.4% of operating revenue.

Wireless data traffic surged 45.0% in revenue over last year and accounted for 8.4% of operating revenue.

Wireless Music service contributed RMB22.1 billion (US$3.50 billion) in revenue.

Mobile Reading, Mobile Video and Mobile Mailbox growing rapidly. Mobile Reading reached RMB627 million in revenue, up 7.8%; Mobile Video reached RMB571 million, up 136%; and Mobile Mailbox reached RMB1,539 million, up 60%.

The 3G customer base exceeded 51 million by year's end. 3G customer market share is over 40%.

3G network coverage reached county level and above cities, with nearly 220,000 3G base stations and good network quality.

Network quality continues to improve. In 2011, GSM call drop rate was reduced to 0.32%, successful connection rate
increased to 99.26%.

The GSM network now encompasses 700,000 base stations with network utilization between 70 to 75%.

The TD-SCDMA network has close to 220,000 base stations. Data traffic here was up 58.4%.

China Mobile has 2.2 million WLAN APs in operation.

CAPEX was RMB128.5 billion (US$20.34 billion), representing 24.3% of operating revenue.

For 2012, the CAPEX budget is projected at RMB131.9 billion (US$20.88 billion).

In 2012, Phase 2 of the TD-LTE rollout will reach 20,000 base stations in 9 cities. By the end of 2013, China Mobile aims to have 200,000 TD-LTE base stations enabled.

NXP Intros New Silicon Tuners for STBs

NXP Semiconductors introduced its latest high-performance single and dual silicon tuners for cable set-top-boxes (STBs) covering worldwide digital cable standards. The company is offering two new silicon tuners supporting zero-power loop-through, enabling STB manufacturers to comply with the latest EU Ecodesign Directive requirements, which set standby power consumption levels at less than half a watt for simple STBs starting in 2013.

NXP said its newest generation of cable silicon tuners is also the industry’s first to fully integrate 8-kV of ESD protection inside the chip, enhancing robustness and further reducing the number of components required. Together, the integrated zero-power loop-through and ESD protection help to save PCB space in the STB, simplifying layout at the critical RF antenna input section, enabling better RF performance, and bringing down the total of bill of materials (BoM) by approximately US 20 cents.

Anue Enhances its Carrier Ethernet Test System

Anue Systems introduced a new system designed to simplify and improve testing efficiency of mobile backhaul and Carrier Ethernet network equipment, including support for IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP) and Synchronous Ethernet. Some key features of the new Anue 3500 v1.1:
  • Time of day and frequency stability testing

  • Full real-time measurement and analysis with automatic pass / fail results

  • Test automation API

  • Higher Ethernet test port count.

AT&T and Union Reach Tentative Southwest Contract

AT&T announced the highlights of a tentative agreement with the Communications Workers of America in Mobility that was reached earlier this month. The contract covers approximately 8,800 employees in CWA District 6 (AT&T's Southwest region). Among provisions of the tentative agreement:

  • A $1,000 one-time lump sum cash payment to eligible employees upon ratification

  • General wage increases in each year of the contract – 2 percent the first year, 2.5 percent the second year, 2.25 percent the third year, and 2.5 percent the fourth year.

  • Pension plans for current employees remain unchanged.

  • New hires continue to be eligible for a cash-balance pension.

  • Continued 401(k) savings plan with generous 80 percent company match on up to 6 percent of employee's contribution.

  • Health care benefits are bargained separately and are not included in this agreement.