Showing posts with label Softbank. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Softbank. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

SoftBank to offer 128 Technology's SD-WAN

SoftBank will enterprise customers a tunnel-free, managed SD-WAN solution from 128 Technology. The service is being branded as “SD-WAN Type X”.

128 Technology said that by eliminating tunnels, its 128T Networking Platform and Session Smart Router will more effectively route network traffic to better pathways when there is network congestion, increasing both connectivity and bandwidth. Additionally, SoftBank’s “SD-WAN Type X” offering reduces complexity and operations costs by eliminating firewalls and VPNs and by cutting cloud rental costs. The 128T Networking Platform also is designed around a “Zero-Trust” security model, so enterprise customers that are transferring large amounts of sensitive data over their network can rest assured that it will remain protected, reducing the risk of security breaches.

“By utilizing our SD-WAN solution, SoftBank’s enterprise customers will be able to connect users with great experiences by efficiently delivering applications and resources that drive today’s businesses forward,” said Tim Ziemer, Vice President of Worldwide Sales & Business Development at 128 Technology. “We’re very excited to expand our presence in Japan and look forward to providing agile WAN connectivity to SoftBank customers that delivers enhanced security, performance and agility.”

Sunday, July 7, 2019

KDDI and Softbank agree on 5G network sharing in rural Japan

KDDI and SoftBank agreed to share their base station assets to jointly promote the rapid build-out of 5G networks in Japan's rural areas.

Specifically, the companies plan to set up a joint construction management company that would facilitate construction designs and manage construction work to efficiently utilize the base station assets of both companies. As a first step, both companies will establish a preparatory office, and starting this fall, conduct joint trials in Asahikawa City in Hokkaido, Narita City in Chiba Prefecture and Fukuyama City in Hiroshima Prefecture.

In addition to streamlining processes from design to construction management stages, the trials will be used to verify the effects of 5G network quality improvements and shortened construction periods in rural areas.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Softbank picks Ericsson and Nokia for 5G

SoftBank Corp. awarded major 5G contracts to Ericsson and Nokia, marking a significant change in its preferred vendors. Huawei has been a supplier of 4G infrastructure for Softbank.

Ericsson was selected by SoftBank as a primary 5G vendor for the deployment of a multi-band 5G network in Japan following a series of successful joint proof-of-concept activities that began in 2015. Under a new agreement, Ericsson will provide SoftBank with radio access network equipment, including products from the Ericsson Radio System portfolio. This will enable SoftBank to launch 5G services on their newly granted 3.9-4.0 GHz and 29.1-29.5 GHz bands for 5G New Radio (NR).

Nokia also confirmed that it was selected to supply its 5G AirScale solution to Softbank for deployment across Japan. Nokia's 5G AirScale supports multiple frequencies, in both distributed and centralized architectures, giving SoftBank tremendous flexibility in its network evolution. Nokia has also been a long term supplier to Softbank. Nokia also noted that it now has 38 5G commercial contracts, including 20 with named customers.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

SoftBank looks to solar-powered aircraft, partnership with Google Loon

SoftBank is launching a High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) business through HAPSMobile, a joint venture between SoftBank and US-based company AeroVironment.

HAPSMobile has developed an unmanned aircraft called “HAWK30 that will serve as a telecommunications platform at altitudes of approximately 20 kilometers. The aircraft will function like telecommunication base stations to deliver connectivity across wide areas.

The “HAWK30” unmanned aircraft is approximately 78 meters long. Its wings contain solar panel and 10 propellers. The aircraft can fly at speeds of approximately 110 kilometers per hour on average. Softbank expects it will be able to keep the aircraft in flight for months at a time.

In addition, HAPSMobile and Alphabet's Loon have formed a long-term strategic relationship to advance the use of high altitude vehicles, such as balloons and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Specifically, the companies have entered into formal negotiations on a number of areas of potential technical and commercial collaboration, including:

  •  A wholesale business that would allow HAPSMobile to utilize Loon’s fully-functioning vehicle and technology. Likewise, Loon would be able to utilize HAPSMobile’s aircraft, which is currently in development, upon its completion. 
  • A jointly developed communications payload that is adaptable to multiple flight vehicles and various ITU compliant frequency bands. 
  • A common gateway or ground station that could be deployed globally and utilized by both Loon and HAPSMobile to provide connectivity over their respective platforms. 
  • Adapting and optimizing Loon’s fleet management system and temporospatial SDN for use by HAPSMobile.
  •  Creating an alliance to promote the use of high altitude communications solution with regulators and officials worldwide. 
  • Enabling flight vehicles from each party to connect and share the same network connectivity in the air.

Junichi Miyakawa, Representative Director & CTO of SoftBank Corp., also President & CEO of HAPSMobile stated “Building a telecommunications network in the stratosphere, which has not been utilized by humankind so far, is uncharted territory and a major challenge for SoftBank. Working with Alphabet’s subsidiary Loon, I’m confident we can accelerate the path toward the realization of utilizing the stratosphere for global networks by pooling our technologies, insights and experience. Even in this current era of coming 5G services, we cannot ignore the reality that roughly half of the world’s population is without Internet access. Through HAPS, we aim to eliminate the digital divide and provide people around the world with the innovative network services that they need.”

 Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth said "We see joining forces as an opportunity to develop an entire industry, one which holds the promise to bring connectivity to parts of the world no one thought possible. This is the beginning of a long-term relationship based on a shared vision for expanding connectivity to those who need it. We look forward to what the future holds.”

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Cambridge Mobile Telematics announces $500M backing from Softbank

Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT), which is known for its DriveWell platform used by insurers, fleet operators, cellular carriers, and large entreprises to measure driving risk, announced a $500 million investment from the SoftBank Vision Fund.

CMT, which is located steps from the MIT campus, said the investment will boost its growth in automated crash and claims management, video analytics, and safety for emerging vehicle and mobility systems. The investment is subject to regulatory approval.

“CMT is breaking new ground in the application of telematics, machine learning, and behavioral analytics to solve challenging problems in insurance and safety,” said Akshay Naheta, Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers. “CMT is uniquely positioned to help insurers develop the insights to better support customers and advance their operations, while promoting long-term improvements in driving standards around the world.”

“Over the past few years, the DriveWell platform has helped make roads safer by making drivers better in a world where crashes are rising due to factors like distracted driving,” said Hari Balakrishnan, CMT’s Chairman and CTO, who founded CMT with Bill Powers (CEO) and Sam Madden (Chief Scientist). “Our rapid growth has been fueled by a culture that values collaboration with our customers and invests in research to improve our solutions and develop new products. This partnership with the Vision Fund is the start of the next stage of our journey to bring safe mobility solutions for people and goods at massive scale.”

CMT has pioneered many innovations since its inception, in 2010, from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab. CMT deployed the first service to efficiently gather and process sensory data from phones for auto insurance (2012), use phone sensors to measure phone distraction (2013), and induce better driving with gamification (2014). Together, these innovations created the category of “behavior-based insurance”, also known as “mobile usage-based insurance”. Results from the field are compelling: the driving feedback, rewards, and contests delivered via the DriveWell platform reduce phone distraction by 35% on average with 30 days, and at-risk speeding and hard braking by 20%. These improvements lead to significant measurable reductions in crashes and insurance claims.
  • 2010 - company conceived at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab
  • 2012 -  first service to efficiently gather and process sensory data from phones for auto insurance
  • 2013 - first use phone sensors to measure phone distraction
  • 2014 - first use of phone sensors for better driving with gamification 
  • 2014 - introduced its DriveWell Tag, the first fully wireless “Internet of Things” (IoT) device to measure vehicle dynamics for actuarial scoring and for real-time impact alerts with roadside assistance
  • 2018 - CMT shipped its 6 millionth Tag.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

SoftBank tests Non-IP Data Delivery for NB-IoT

SoftBank is testing NIDD (Non-IP Data Delivery) for NB-IoT over its commercial network.

NIDD, which is defined by 3GPP, enables users to transmit data to IoT devices without allocating an IP address. Two benefits are cited: better security by not using IP in transmission; and better efficiency by not requiring header information.

SoftBank said it aims to leverage NIDD technology to introduce and commercialize devices tailored to various businesses and fields such as crime prevention, social infrastructure and agriculture, making full use of its distinctive features of high security, low power consumption, and high area coverage.

Akira Sakakibara, CTO at Microsoft Japan, stated “We expect that NIDD technology to reduce communication load for IoT devices and enables to accelerate utilization in IoT field especially for those who had difficulty in conventional condition. As NIDD technology corresponds to open standards, it can easily connects to Microsoft Azure IoT platform and enable to implement data management, view and AI features. SoftBank and Microsoft Japan will continuously contribute to accelerate IoT technology utilization in every industry.”

Tadashi Okazaki, Head of Solution Architect, Amazon Web Services Japan K.K., said “Along with the popularization and growth of IoT technology, absolute security for IoT devices itself is strongly in demand. With the implementation of NIDD technology which securely connect AWS IoT platform and peripheral device, we expect to accelerate the popularization of IoT technology. Low power consumption is one of the characteristic of NIDD technology. Therefore, we hope to solve long discussed controversy of IoT devices high power consumptions.”

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Softbank implements Machine Learning in the RAN with Ericsson

SoftBank is using machine-learning software developed by Ericsson for advanced radio network design in the Tokai region. The service groups cells in clusters and takes statistics from cell overlapping and potential to use carrier aggregation between cells into account, thus reducing operational expenditure and improving network performance. The machine learning evaluates cell coverage overlap, signal strength and receive diversity. Big data analytics was applied to a cluster of 2000 radio cells and data was analyzed for the optimal configuration.

Ericsson’s centralized and elastic radio access network design is sold as a service and supports LTE networks. Ericsson says that compared to traditional network design methods, the ML approach cuts the lead time by 40 percent.

Ryo Manda, Radio Technology Section Manager at the Tokai Network Technology Department of SoftBank, says: “We applied Ericsson’s service on dense urban clusters with multi-band complexity in the Tokai region. The positive outcome exceeded our expectations and we are currently proceeding in other geographical areas with the same method and close cooperation with Ericsson.”

Peter Laurin, Head of Managed Services at Ericsson, says: “There is a huge potential for machine learning in the telecom industry and we have made significant investments in this technology. It is very exciting to see that the new methods have been successfully applied in SoftBank’s network. There is a strong demand for this type of solutions and deployments of this service to other tier-one operators in other regions are ongoing.”

Sunday, November 5, 2017

SoftBank to Increase Stake in Sprint

SoftBank announced its intention to increase its stake in Sprint through open market transactions or otherwise, subject to market conditions and other factors.

Masayoshi Son, Chairman & CEO of SBG and Chairman of Sprint, said, “We are entering an era where billions of new connected devices and sensors will come online throughout the United States. Continuing to own a world-class mobile network is central to our vision of ubiquitous connectivity. Sprint is a critical part of our plan to ensure that we can deliver our vision to American consumers and we are very confident in its future.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

SoftBank plans new JV targeting U.S. cell towers

SoftBank and Australia's Lendlease Group are planning to a joint venture company to own and operate cell towers across the U.S, according to The Wall Street Journal and other media sources. The initial plan envisions the acquisition of about 8,000 cell sites, many but not all of which would come from Sprint. SoftBank holds a 70% equity stake in Sprint.

In April 2016, Sprint announced an arrangement to sell and lease back certain existing network assets, thereby raising $2.2 billion for addressing upcoming debt maturities.

Under the deal, several bankruptcy remote entities (collectively “Network LeaseCo”) will acquire certain existing network assets and then lease them back to Sprint. The assets acquired by Network LeaseCo will be used as collateral to raise approximately $2.2 billion in borrowings from external investors, including SoftBank. The $2.2 billion of cash proceeds Sprint expects to receive from the transaction is scheduled to be repaid in staggered, unequal payments through January 2018.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

SoftBank tests 5G in 4.5GHz band with Ericsson

SoftBank is working with Ericsson to conduct an end-to-end trial of 5G in the 4.5GHz band in the urban areas of Japan.

Ericsson said this will be the first end-to-end 5G trial including two 5G New Radios, virtual RAN, virtual EPC, beamforming, Massive MIMO functionalities and test support services. SoftBank is currently awaiting an experimental license to conduct the trial.

The companies have been conducting 5G lab trials using 4.5GHz spectrum since last year.

Earlier this year, Hideyuki Tsukuda, Senior Vice President, SoftBank Corp., was quoted: "SoftBank started to verify 4.5GHz radio back in August 2016 and now 4.5GHz is becoming the leading candidate band for 5G services in Japan together with 28GHz.  We are leveraging Ericsson's Test Bed with 28GHz radio to validate a lot of advanced features at super low-latency and high throughput, which helps position us as a pioneer of 5G."

Monday, February 27, 2017

Huawei and Softbank Complete 3.5 GHz Massive MIMO with CA Test

Huawei, in collaboration with SoftBank, completed a Massive MIMO verification test using the operator's 40 MHz spectrum on the 3.5 GHz band in Tokyo, Japan.

The test of Massive MIMO and multi-carrier technologies achieved a peak downlink rate of 1.4 Gbps.

Huawei said the 3.5 GHz band, with its abundant bandwidth resources, offers a great opportunity for the global development of LTE TDD, and has grown increasingly important as a 5G catalyst to assume the spotlight position of the global mobile industry.

Massive MIMO, featuring the incorporation of massive antennas and 3D beamforming, enhances spectrum multiplexing among multiple UEs to significantly improve spectral efficiency without additionally increasing site density or bandwidth. The 3.5 GHz Massive MIMO test further explores the latent potential of 3.5 GHz spectrum, and is expected to open up a new commercial era of LTE-Advanced.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Alibaba Cloud for Japan Ready for Launch

Alibaba Cloud for Japan is ready for commercial launch on December 15, 2016.

The service is provided by SB Cloud Corporation, which is a joint venture between SoftBank Corp. and Alibaba Group Holding Limited.

Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, has the largest share of the Chinese market with its services. Its services provide the critical infrastructure that supports the Alibaba Group’s e-commerce sites, which recently processed a maximum 175,000 orders per second during this year’s Singles’ Day, a large-scale sale that takes place in China on November 11.

With Alibaba Cloud, customers can use Alibaba Group hosted data centers in China, the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore and other locations in addition to those hosted by SB Cloud in Japan.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

SoftBank Adopts SanDisk's Multi-petabyte Flash Platform

SoftBank has adopted the SanDisk InfiniFlash all-flash storage platform for its software-defined storage solution.

Specifically, SoftBank has built a new software-defined, multi-petabyte in-house system using the SanDisk InfiniFlash platform as its core storage engine for real-time data transaction applications, enabling the installation of software in general-purpose servers. Previously, SoftBank was running an in-house traditional storage system combining hard disk drives (HDD) and solid state drives (SSD) for some of its applications.

SanDisk said its InfiniFlash platform offers up to 512TB of recording density in one 3-rack-unit (3U) platform.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Why did SoftBank offer £24.3 billion (US$32.4 billion) in cash to acquire ARM Holdings? - Part 2

 In part 1 of this article we considered some of the given reasons for the ARM bid and whether the new ownership would be positive, neutral or negative for ARM given Softbank’s record at Sprint.  Here we look at recent M&A activity in semiconductors and consider some salient points concerning SoftBank’s charismatic Chairman Masoyoshi Son.

For comparison - A String of Recent Mergers for Semiconductor Companies

SoftBank's acquisition of ARM also continues the on-going consolidation in the semiconductor business.  Although SoftBank is not a player in semiconductors and in that sense is not contributing to the further consolidation of the industry into just a few houses, investment bankers representing ARM would surely be familiar with current valuations and the desire to match smaller players to larger buyers.  Bigger seems to be better when it comes to silicon companies.

In March 2015, NXP Semiconductor agreed to acquire Freescale in a stock swap value at $16.7 billion (including Freescale's debt).   The deal created the largest supplier of semiconductors for the automotive industry and the No.1 supplier of general microcontrollers (MCUs).

In May 2015, Avago Technologies agreed to acquire Broadcom in a deal valued at $37 billion ($17 billion in cash and $20 billion in Avago shares).  This merger created the third largest global semiconductor company with strong presence in wired infrastructure, wireless infrastructure, enterprise storage, ASICs, PHYs, Ethernet switching silicon and set-top box silicon.  The new company has an annual revenue of approximately $15 billion.

In January 2016, Intel completed its acquisition of Altera, a provider of field-programmable gate array (FPGA) technology, in a deal that was valued at $16.7 billion when it was first announced six months earlier.  Altera now operate as a new Intel business unit called the Programmable Solutions Group (PSG).  Its portfolio includes its Stratix series FPGAs with embedded memory, digital signal processing (DSP) blocks, high-speed transceivers, and high-speed I/O pins. Altera's Arria system-on-chip solutions integrate an ARM-based hard processor and memory interfaces with the FPGA fabric using a high-bandwidth interconnect. These devices include additional hard logic such as PCI Express Gen2, multiport memory controllers, error correction code (ECC), memory protection and high-speed serial transceivers.

In November 2015, Microsemi Corporation consolidated its offer to acquire PMC Sierra for $9.22 in cash and 0.0771 of a share of Microsemi common stock, representing an enterprise value of $2.5 billion.

In June 2016, Cavium agreed to acquire QLogic for $1.36 billion in stock. QLogic, which is based in Aliso Viejo, California, supplies Fibre Channel Adapters, converged network adapter for the Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) market, Ethernet adapters, iSCSI adapters, and ASICs.  The company has design wins for next generation Ethernet (10/25/50/100Gb) and Fibre Channel (16/32Gb) platforms.

In March 2016, Cisco agreed to acquire Leaba Semiconductor, a venture-backed fabless semiconductor company, for $320 million in cash and assumed equity awards, plus additional retention based incentives. Leaba, which is based in Israel, specializes in networking semiconductors.  The company is in stealth mode and has not announced any products.

Through this string of mergers, we see that enormous consolidation is underway in the semiconductor industry and that given its prominence in the field, we can surmise that ARM must have been the subject of many proposed deals.  It would have been expected to see ARM paired up with developers of switching silicon, RF chips, or fast memory.  The SoftBank acquisition therefore is incongruous.

SoftBank’s Charismatic Chairman

When trying to assess the rationality of this bid it is worth noting that Masayoshi Son has never been easy to characterise. He is certainly a long way from being an investor in the calm mould of Warren Buffett or Bill Gates and does not have a flawless history in the investment business. During the dotcom boom Son bought almost anything that moved and ended the decade with the unenviable reputation of having lost more money than any other entrepreneur in history i.e. about $ 70 billion Son has a risk-aggressive and maverick personality and is inclined towards making massive and unusual bets on trends and companies that usually result in either colossal successes like Ali Baba or huge failures like Vodafone KK --therefore normal financial yardsticks cannot be easily applied to his decisions --since almost by definition he is working on an unique perception that almost no one else shares. As an example of Son's unpredictability, a few weeks ago Nikesh Arora the ex-Google executive most people thought was certain to succeed Son left his job abruptly after Son changed his mind and decided he was too young to retire which indeed at under sixty years he certainly is.
Masayoshi Son's abiding interest in humanoid robotics should be also noted.

In February 2015, SoftBank acquired 95% stake in Aldebaran Robotics SAS, a decade-old robotics developer based in Paris that, in collaboration with SoftBank Mobile, created Pepper, a humanoid robot with four microphones, two HD cameras, a 3-D depth sensor, a gyroscope in the torso, touch sensors (head and hands) six lasers, and a touch-screen display.  The big advancement with Pepper is its attempt to understand its physical environment and interact with humans on an emotional level. Following the buyout, Bruno Maisonnier, founder and CEO of Alderaban, stepped down and was replaced by Fumihide Tomizawa.

Several thousand early versions of Pepper were shipped in late 2015.  Full commercial release of Pepper is expected shortly in Japan. An active third-party develop program is underway.

Earlier this year, various company activities in this sector were consolidated under SoftBank Robotics Holdings Corp, based in Tokyo and with offices in France (formerly Alderaban Robotics), U.S., and China.

In March 2016, SoftBank and Microsoft announced a partnership to create a next-generation cloud-enabled robot using “Pepper” — SoftBank Robotics' humanoid robot — and Microsoft's cloud-based Azure IoT Suite. The idea is to build a humanoid robot for the retail industry to serve customers in person.  This version of Pepper will use Microsoft's Surface Hub large-screen collaboration device, its Surface 2-in-1 devices, and data repositories in the Azure cloud, such as inventory systems, AI assistance from Cortana, and the Microsoft Translator application.

In January 2016, SoftBank announced plans to offer a version of the Pepper humanoid robot to the enterprise market that would integrate cognitive capabilities of IBM's Watson.   The Watson-powered Pepper would try to make sense of a range of social media, video, image and text inputs. IBM said it will give clients access to Watson APIs and various pre-packaged applications.  The hospitality industry is target for the partners.

On June 21st 2016, SoftBank reached a deal to sell its 84% stake in Supercell Oy, a developer of mobile games based in Helsinki, Finland, to Tencent Holdings for approximately US$10.2 billion. SoftBank owned the controlling stake in Supercell since 2013, but let the business operate as an independent company with its own unique culture and independent team of developers. The proceeds from the sale will be used for the ARM acquisition.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Why did SoftBank offer £24.3 billion (US$32.4 billion) in cash to acquire ARM Holdings? - Part 1

To make this purchase, SoftBank will need to part with cash-on-hand and take out an additional loan from Mizuho Bank of Japan, adding to its mountainous pile of debt?

ARM is the leading developer of RISC processor designs that are widely licensed for use in smartphones and tablets.  The company, which is based in Cambridge, England, posted 2015 revenue of £968.3 million. A total of 14.8 billion ARM-powered SoCs shipped in 2015, up from just over 12 billion in 2014.

SoftBank is mostly a telco, mobile operator and ISP business in Japan. It also owns the majority stake in Sprint, the fourth largest mobile operator in the U.S., as well as a substantial stake in Alibaba, China's leading cloud and B2B business.

Executives at both firms pointed to IoT as their common future.  Most analysts agree that there will be many years of tremendous growth ahead as the world goes about connecting every machine. ARM processors are already well positioned for this opportunity.  SoftBank's investments in Alibaba and Sprint should also get a boost as more connected devices take off.  But it is not apparent that SoftBank's ownership of ARM could boost its number of IoT design wins.  Nor should we expect ARM-based devices to generate any additional traffic or value just because they are on SoftBank infrastructure.

For ARM executives and shareholders, a 43% jump is valuation is certainly good news.  It more money to grow the business, and more money in the retirement account.

For SoftBank, what other reasons could be driving its decision to take on more corporate debt, especially in the highly-volatile semiconductor business, where it has now prior experience? 

Some considerations:

•   ARM Holdings is a profitable business and holds a 95% share of the market for processors used in smartphones.

•   SoftBank can borrow large amounts of cash at negative interest rates in Japan. The negative interest rates in Japan tend to force spare cash overseas.  Japanese lenders would rather put their money into a fast growing concern like ARM than see it languish at home.

•   The British pound has depreciated significantly versus the yen.  Today's rate is approximately 140 yen for 1 British pound, verses 190 yen for 1 British pound about a year ago.

•   ARM's RISC processors could play a key role in robotics, which is an area of intense interest for SoftBank and its chairman in particular. SoftBank owns the "Pepper" humanoid robots that have made quite a splash of late in Japan.

•   SoftBank may be forecasting a positive entry for ARM into the processor market for servers used in hyperscale data centres, such as those owned by Alibaba.  A strong entry in to this market could significantly weaken Intel.

It has also been revealed that the deal came together in great haste -- just two weeks.  Masayoshi Son denied that the timing was influenced by Brexit or the decline in the value of the pound, instead stating that he has admired ARM for many years. He decided to approach the company with his offer two weeks ago (that would be around June 30th). The SoftBank offer was so compelling that the ARM board decided to approve it rapidly (apparently without shopping around for any other alternative suitors) and to recommend it to shareholders.  ARM's financial advisors were Goldman Sachs and Lazard & Co.

The companies are expecting a straight-forward approval process because they have no areas of competitive overlap. Completion is expected by November 2016.

Masoyoshi Son said the deal is a mark of confidence in the UK, noting that some other Japanese companies he knew were considering whether they should move their European headquarters out of the UK. He said he strongly believes that now is the time to invest in the UK.

On the merger conference call, as well as in previous financial calls, Son reminds investors that SoftBank has the highest EBITDA operating margins and greatest free cash flow of any major carrier at 54%, ahead of Verizon, AT&T or China Mobile. ARM also enjoys nice margins.

Balanced against these reasons in favour of the giant SoftBank + ARM merger are several immediate concerns.  First, did SoftBank offer too high a price?  With a 43% premium over how the LSE valued the ARM business, SoftBank is certainly seeing positive prospects. We know that ARM devices are inside nearly every smartphone, that nearly everyone on the planet own or aspires to own a smartphone, and that these devices need to be replaced on a regular basis.

 Good for the UK?

Then there is a nationalist concern. ARM is currently at the top of its game and it has many bright prospects ahead in mobile phones, tablets, embedded devices, automotive, IoT devices, network infrastructure, and cloud servers.  It one of the few remaining British technology firms with a global impact. Selling out to a Japanese firm, raises the possibility that the UK's influence in the IT sector could be diminished by this transfer of ownership.  ARM and SoftBank addressed this issue at the top of their press event, stating that the ARM organisation would remain intact with its current senior management team, and that it would continue to be based in Cambridge.  The companies are also assuring that employee headcount in the UK will roughly double over the next five years, representing the addition of 1,500 or so high-paying jobs.

SoftBank has successfully kept its word with its other big properties. Following the acquisition of Sprint in 2013, there has not been any changed public perception of the company.  In other words, the U.S. consumer market accepts Sprint as a top four American mobile operator -- not as a Japanese carrier doing business in the U.S. (the same can be said of T-Mobile USA, which is also widely seen as a local player and not a German company).  In China, there is the potentially sensitive issue of a Japanese firm owning major shares of the country's leading cloud and B2B firm.  Whereas other Japanese companies have struggled through several recent episodes of public anger regarding China's political relationship with Japan, SoftBank has brilliantly navigated these waters largely thanks to Masoyoshi Son's charisma and personal friendship with Alibaba's Jack Ma.  As a Japanese citizen of Korean ancestry, Son has long been the outsider willing to take chances and disrupt the established order. His bold investments and entrepreneurial spirit have helped him open doors, whether in Tokyo, Silicon Valley, Hangzhou or Beijing.  Foreign takeovers are never easy, but Son's chances of adapting to Cambridge are probably better than others (just consider if ARM were to be bought by Huawei or Samsung).

ARM's business model as a licensor of intellectual property would also remain unchanged.  ARM is an intellectual property firm. Unlike Intel, which designs and fabricates its own silicon, ARM does not own or control the manufacturing process.  Building fabs is an extremely capital intensive business, especially as the lithography moved under the 90nm threshold a decade ago.  Each new fab is a multi-billion project that takes years of planning but with a short time window in which to recoup the investment.  ARM licensees build their own devices, largely in the fabs of TSMC, UMC, and Global Foundries. This type of manufacturing has long left the UK.  While the idea of a fab-less semiconductor company seemed radical in the early 1990s, the virtual enterprise is all the rage these days.  Investors much prefer a smaller company with very high margins to a behemoth with high levels of production but low productivity. As long as ARM can continue to improve its architecture so that its customers can continue the unending technology update cycle, the company will continue to prosper, as ARM has demonstrated since its founding in 1991.

Monday, July 18, 2016

SoftBank Confirms Acquisition of ARM

SoftBank Group Corp. agreed to acquire ARM Holdings Plc in an all-cash deal valued at £24.3 billion. (US$32.4 billion), or 1,700 pence per ARM share, and representing a premium of 43% over the closing price on preceding trading day. The deal would be Softbank's largest to date.

SoftBank, which is based in Tokyo and is headed by Masayoshi Son, said it intends to preserve the ARM organization and business model, including ARM's senior management team and its headquarters in Cambridge, England. The companies said they intend to double employee headcount in the UK over the next five years.

ARM is the leading developer of RISC processor designs that are widely licensed for use in smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, embedded systems, and, increasing, servers. The company posted 2015 revenue of £968.3 million. A total of 14.8 billion ARM-powered SoCs shipped in 2015, up from just over 12 billion in 2014.

SoftBank will fund the acquisition with cash on hand and a load from Mizuho Bank of Japan.

“We have long admired ARM as a world renowned and highly respected technology company that is by some distance the market-leader in its field. ARM will be an excellent strategic fit within the SoftBank group as we invest to capture the very significant opportunities provided by the “Internet of Things,” stated  Masayoshi Son, Chairman and CEO of SoftBank.

Regarding strategic rationale, both companies said they see big opportunities ahead with IoT.

ARM's next generation designs are expected to increase the number of processors per chip from a maximum of 8 today to 256 cores per chip.

  • In July 2013, Softbank paid $22.2 billion for a 78% ownership interest in Sprint.

Softbank to Sell $7.9 Billion of its Stake in Alibaba

Softbank announced plans to sell US$7.9 billion of the shares it holds in Alibaba Group Holding Limited (“Alibaba”).

Specifically, the transactions are comprised of (i) the intended sale of $2.0 billion of Alibaba ordinary
shares to Alibaba, (ii) the intended sale of $400 million of Alibaba ordinary shares to members of the Alibaba Partnership acting collectively, and the sale of $500 million of Alibaba ordinary shares to a major sovereign wealth fund pursuant to an exemption from registration under the U.S. Securities Act and (iii) an intention to offer, subject to market conditions and other factors, $5.0 billion aggregate purchase price of its mandatory exchangeable trust securities exchangeable into American depositary shares of Alibaba in a private placement to qualified institutional buyers pursuant to Rule 144A under the U.S. Securities Act.

After the sale, Softbank would continue to hold approximately 28%3 of Alibaba’s total outstanding shares.

“When I first met Jack Ma, I knew immediately he had the vision and passion to build the world’s leading e-commerce company, and I was very happy to invest alongside him to help him realize his ambition.” said SBG Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son. “This investment has been phenomenally successful and, over the past 16 years, we have built a close relationship, working together on many exciting projects. In that time, we have not sold any Alibaba shares. There are huge opportunities ahead for Alibaba and SBG looks forward to the continued partnership.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Softbank to Sell $7.9 Billion of its Stake in Alibaba

Softbank announced plans to sell US$7.9 billion of the shares it holds in Alibaba Group Holding Limited (“Alibaba”).

Specifically, the transactions are comprised of (i) the intended sale of $2.0 billion of Alibaba ordinary
shares to Alibaba, (ii) the intended sale of $400 million of Alibaba ordinary shares to members of the Alibaba Partnership acting collectively, and the sale of $500 million of Alibaba ordinary shares to a major sovereign wealth fund pursuant to an exemption from registration under the U.S. Securities Act and (iii) an intention to offer, subject to market conditions and other factors, $5.0 billion aggregate purchase price of its mandatory exchangeable trust securities exchangeable into American depositary shares of Alibaba in a private placement to qualified institutional buyers pursuant to Rule 144A under the U.S. Securities Act.

After the sale, Softbank would continue to hold approximately 28%3 of Alibaba’s total outstanding shares.

“When I first met Jack Ma, I knew immediately he had the vision and passion to build the world’s leading e-commerce company, and I was very happy to invest alongside him to help him realize his ambition.” said SBG Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son. “This investment has been phenomenally successful and, over the past 16 years, we have built a close relationship, working together on many exciting projects. In that time, we have not sold any Alibaba shares. There are huge opportunities ahead for Alibaba and SBG looks forward to the continued partnership.”

Friday, January 29, 2016

SoftBank Picks Brocade VDX Switches for Data Center

SoftBank Corp deploying Brocade VDX switches to provide Ethernet fabrics as part of the company's group-wide common service infrastructure network. More than 70 switches have already been installed.

The Brocade VDX 6740 and 6740-T switches, deployed in three key SoftBank data centers, create an elastic, self-forming, and self-healing Ethernet fabric with Brocade VCS Logical Chassis functionality enabling the entire fabric to be managed as a single switch. The fabric-based architecture simplifies and automates virtual machine mobility and management within the data centers.

"Increased data center agility is critical to realizing the company's strategy of delivering new OTT services to drive growth," said Takenobu Yamane, manager of system infrastructure and service platform, SoftBank Corp. "Deployment of Brocade VDX switches as part of the new common service infrastructure network gives our data centers a more flexible and automated foundation, supporting a much more streamlined and cost-effective operational model that is capable of responding rapidly to new demands."

  • The BROCADE VDX 6740 SWITCHES support up to 64 wire-speed 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports, with the units being deployed with an initial 24 active ports and the option to activate more in eight-port increments under Brocade's pay-as-you grow Ports on Demand (PoD) licensing model. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Layer123: Softbank Deploys Cisco Evolved Services Platform

Softbank is deploying Cisco's Evolved Services Platform (ESP) Orchestration, software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) technologies to support its White Cloud SmartVPN.

The Softbank service offers enterprise customers a differentiated network service with a selection of multi-vendor networking equipment offerings. The White Cloud SDN creates software-controlled service chains in which traffic is steered through the appropriate security functions for a given flow, based on customer profile, service type or other parameter. A self-service online portal gives customers a simple way to select security policies and scalable network services associated with changes of business requirements.

Softbank is using Cisco's Network Services Orchestrator (NSO) enabled by Tail-f for the provisioning of both its physical and virtual elements.  Cisco said its enhanced architecture reduces the time to deployment for new enterprise services from weeks to minutes, while allowing for greater elasticity of customer demand by utilizing service chaining of new virtual network functions. Using strict, standardized YANG models for both services and devices, NSO automates all of the multi-vendor devices, making it easy to change and reconfigure services on-demand, without time-consuming and error-prone manual effort.

Softbank has also deployed Cisco’s Virtual Topology System to stitch the dynamic service chains within the data center.  The Cisco Virtual Topology System is a standards-based, open software-overlay management and provisioning system. It automates data center network fabric provisioning for virtual and physical infrastructure.

"Our new Cisco architecture has enabled us to dramatically increase our ability to provide highly responsive customer experience,” said Sadahiro Sato senior vice president of ICT innovation, Softbank. “The flexibility and open nature of the Cisco Evolved Services Platform will equip us with the tools to innovate new services at a rapid pace and keep ahead of our competition. Automation and elasticity on demand will also help us dramatically reduce both our operating and capital costs as we grow the offering.”

“We are delighted to partner with Softbank to unlock network innovation and accelerate service creation and deployment,” said Gee Rittenhouse senior vice president of cloud and virtualization, Cisco. “Softbank was able to leverage an open, modular multi-vendor architecture that suites its specific needs by utilizing Orchestration, NFV and SDN products from Cisco’s Evolved Services Platform. This new business solution is an exciting opportunity for Cisco to work with such an innovative and customer-centric service provider.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

SoftBank Group Buys More Shares of Sprint on Open Market

Saying it believes the share price of Sprint is under valued, SoftBank Group announced a program of open market purchases of Sprint's publicly traded shares.

Speaking on Sprint's quarterly financial conference call last week, Masayoshi Son, Chairman & CEO of SBG and Chairman of Sprint, said he is enthusiastic about Sprint's prospects.