Convergence Plus
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
T-Mobile, Sprint aim to announce merger without asset divestitures

T-Mobile, Sprint aim to announce merger without asset divestituresSprint aim to announce merger without asset divestitures: sources
T-Mobile U.S. Inc and SprintCorp plan to announce a merger agreement without any immediate asset sales, as they seek to preserve as much of their spectrum holdings and cost synergies as they can before regulators ask for concessions, according to people familiar with the matter. While it is common for companies not to unveil divestitures during merger announcements, T-Mobile's and Sprint's approach shows that the companies plan to enter what could be challenging negotiations with U.S. antitrust and telecommunications regulators without having made prior concessions.

Reuters reported last week that some of the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust staff were skeptical about the deal, which would combine the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers. However, regulators can only begin reviewing a corporate merger once it has been agreed to and announced.

T-Mobile and Sprint are preparing a negotiating strategy to tackle demands from regulators regarding asset sales, including the divestment of some of their spectrum licenses after their deal is announced, the sources said.

The companies' announcement of a merger agreement, currently expected to come either in late October or early November, will focus on the potential benefits of the deal for U.S. consumers, including the advancement of next-generation 5G wireless technology, which requires considerable investment, the sources added. The sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. T-Mobile and Sprint declined to comment.

"It is better for Sprint and T-Mobile to listen and learn the concerns of regulators first, and see whether there is anything that can be done to address those concerns," MoffettNathanson research analyst Craig Moffett said. A combination of T-mobile and Sprint would create a business with more than 130 million U.S. subscribers, just behind Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc. Companies often chose not to make any pre-emptive announcements on divestitures when they announce mergers. For example, when U.S. health insurers Anthem Inc and Aetna Inc separately announced deals two years ago to acquire peers Cigna Corp and Humana Inc, they did not reveal which assets they would be willing to divest. U.S. federal judges shot down both mergers on antitrust grounds earlier this year.

Some media and telecommunications deals in recent years have been announced with divestitures, such as U.S. cable operator Comcast Corp's proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable in 2014, which was later called off after regulatory pushback. When U.S. TV station owner Sinclair Broadcast Group announced its acquisition of peer Tribune Media Co in May, it said it might sell certain stations to comply with regulators.

Companies often also choose to place caps in their merger agreements on the size of divestitures they would be willing to accept in their negotiations with regulators. T-Mobile and Sprint have not yet agreed to include such a cap in their merger agreement, though it is possible they will do so, one of the sources said.

UBS research analyst John Hodulik said in a research note earlier this month that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission will likely force T-Mobile and Sprint to make some divestitures of spectrum, since the combined company would have the most airwaves in its sector with more than 300 MHz, putting it ahead of Verizon's and AT&T's holdings.

T-Mobile spent $8 billion in a government auction of airwaves earlier this year. Sprint stayed out of the auction, touting its holdings of high-band spectrum, which it says can move large volumes of information at high speeds.

Having access to a lot of spectrum is particularly important for the 5G wireless offerings that AT&T and Verizon hope to launch to better compete with high-speed Internet services from cable companies. T-Mobile and Sprint believe that the U.S. antitrust enforcement environment has become more favorable since the companies abandoned their previous effort to combine in 2014 amid regulatory concerns, according to the sources.

The two companies have not yet introduced a breakup fee in their merger negotiations that would compensate one side if regulators reject the deal, though it is possible one will be agreed to by the time the deal is signed, the sources said. Investors have been waiting for the deal to be announced since Reuters first reported last month that T-Mobile and Sprint were close to agreeing tentative merger terms.

Sprint shareholders are expected to receive little to no premium in the deal, meaning that Japan's SoftBank Group Corp, which controls Sprint, and other Sprint shareholders will own around or more than 40 percent of the combined company. T-Mobile majority owner Deutsche Telekom AG and the rest of the T-Mobile shareholders will own the remainder. It is still possible that the negotiations between T-Mobile and Sprint will conclude without a deal, the sources have cautioned. (Source: ETTelecom)

Bharti Airtel intensifies 5G efforts, partners with Ericsson

Bharti Airtel intensifies 5G efforts, partners with EricssonUnder the agreement, Ericsson will help Bharti Airtel create a strategic roadmap for network evolution to the 5G technology standard. The Swedish telecom gear maker will also provide its 5G related technology to demonstrate capabilities, and help the telco identify use cases around the new technology.

Bharti Airtel, India’s leading telco has intensified its efforts on the 5G front, and to fully prepare itself for the newer technology, has now joined hands with Swedish telecom gear maker Ericsson, following similar pacts with Finnish firm Nokiaand SK Telecom.

Under the agreement, Ericsson will help Bharti Airtel create a strategic roadmap for network evolution to the 5G technology standard. The Swedish telecom gear maker will also provide its 5G related technology to demonstrate capabilities, and help the telco identify use cases around the new technology. The agreement between both companies was signed last week in Stockholm, Sweden. Bharti Airtel’s chairman Sunil Mittal, key top executives including Abhay Savargaonkar, Director- Networks Services (India & South Asia), flew to Sweden to ink the agreement, according to people familiar with the matter.

Ericsson’s top executives from India were also in Sweden to finalise the agreement between the companies, the people added. Queries sent to Bharti Airtel and Ericsson didn’t elicit any response.

Both the companies are already working around areas like managed services and 4G technology. Ericsson had recently bagged a big-ticket three-year managed services contract worth up to $500 million (Rs 3,350 crore) from Airtel for its 2G, 3G, 4G LTE networks across all 22 circles. Ericsson is also providing 4G telecom gear for Airtel’s five circles, including the lucrative Delhi market.

Earlier this year, Bharti Airtel had joined hands with Nokia to drive the definition and development of IoT services with a focus on taking the path to 5G network connectivity. The Sunil Mittal’s efforts around 5G technology isn’t limited to its collaboration with telecom gear vendor. It recently entered into a strategic alliance with SK Telecom to leverage the Korean telco’s expertise to build the advanced telecom network and together work in developing 5G technology, Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), Software-defined Networking (SDN) and Internet of Things (IoT). Airtel and SK Telecom are collaborating on an on-going basis to evolve standards for 5G, NFV, SDN and IoT, and have started work to build an enabling ecosystem for the introduction of these technologies in the Indian context.

Christian Hedelin, head of Strategy, Business, Business Area Networks at Ericsson recently told ET, “5G starts with good mobile broadband and we are doing a lot of things that I can’t disclose with our customers in India to prepare the networks for smooth migration into 5G networks.” Some network components that telcos are deploying today are already 5G ready. By 2020, a good part of the network should be ready to support the 5G technology, Hedelin said.

Ericsson, he said, is working closely with regulators to look mid-band 3.3-3.6GHz spectrum band, which is crucial for the 5G network rollout in India. "There is a common understanding in the market. Telcos and policymakers are aligned over the airwaves for 5G technology."

In a recent interaction with ET, Idea Cellular managing director, Himanshu Kapania, said he expects 5G to be launched worldwide in the developed market by 2020, by which time, India should be ready for the new technology as well.

Airtel isn’t the only telco in India to have started work around 5G technology. State-run telco BSNL and Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio are also working with gear vendors to prepare 5G roadmap for their respective roadmaps.

BSNL is collaborating with Nokia, ZTE and Coriant to prepare a roadmap for the development of 5G network in the country, besides working on how to build a conducive ecosystem for the same.

Reliance Jio, on the other hand, is working with its sole network gear partner, Samsung, around LTE-Advanced Pro and 5G. Jio, which has all-IP network in India, had earlier said that its 4G network can be easily enhanced to 5G and beyond.

India plans to roll out 5G services for consumers by 2020 and to achieve that objective, the government last month set up a high-level forum that will evaluate and approve roadmaps and action plans to bring in the latest technology in the country.

The COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India), which represents country’s top telcos such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio, had in August launched the 5G India Forum to bring ecosystem closer.

The forum would facilitate a synergy between national efforts and industry stakeholders in shaping the strategic, commercial and regulatory development of the 5G ecosystem in India. It will also contribute to national policy on 5G by working together with the telecom department (DoT) and build a consensus amongst entities prepare a vision and roadmap for 5G deployment. (Source: ETTelecom)

Tata Teleservices prepares exit plan for staff

Department of Telecom makes IMEI tampering a punishable offence that can attract a 3 year jail termTata TeleservicesBSE -13.23 % (TTSL), the telecom unit of Tata Sons, is preparing an exit plan for most of its 5,000-odd employees, which includes a notice of three to six months, severance packages for those willing to leave earlier, a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for elders, while transferring only a small part of its employees to other group companies. Company executives and industry insiders said the debt-laden telecom company, which will shut its operations soon, had last month asked circle heads to leave by March 31, 2018.

"The Tata Group has always taken care of its people, but very few will get absorbed in other group companies. It is unfair to saddle other Tata companies with employees of TTSL," said a senior official, who did not wish to be identified. The transfer may only happen if there’s a niche set of skills needed in other firms that may match with those of employees in the telecom unit. There may be voluntary retirement schemes for the senior employees — above a particular age — that will be rolled out in the next few months, said a senior official in the Tata Group. For majority of the employees, the telecom unit of the Tata Sons will offer a notice of at least three-six months and those who want to leave can take the severance packages.

There were 5,101 employees on its rolls as on March 31, 2017, as per the latest annual report. Search firms which are dipping into the telecom sector for profiles said they have received resumes from circle heads who want to exit the telco, and have been given a time frame to do so.

"Circles heads of Tata Teleservices whose resumes we are placing have been given time till March 31 and were told of this in September. If they leave now, they will be given the salary for the remaining months of this financial year," said Kris Lakshmikanth, chairman of search firm Headhunters India. A circle head's salary can be up to Rs 1 crore.

Tata Teleservices did not respond to ET’s queries till the time of going to press. According to an ET report published last Saturday, the Tata Group informed the government that it plans to shut its wireless business, and will start the process in a month.

The brass of TTSL and representatives from the promoter group met Department of Telecommunications (DoT) officials and discussed ways of surrendering or selling their existing spectrum holdings, some of which have been allocated administratively by the government and some have been bought through spectrum sales over the past few years.

This will be one of the first big Tata units to be shut in the group’s 149-year-old history. Tata Teleservices, which was set up in 1996 with landline operations, had a cheqered history. It launched CDMA operations in 2002, then adopted GSM in 2008 and received Rs 14,000 crore of investment from NTT Docomo, which eventually decided to exit the loss-making joint venture in 2014, citing weak financial performances.

The group had earlier tried forming alliances with other companies but didn’t fructify mainly due to the telco’s debt burden of about Rs 30,000 crore. (Source: Economic Times)

*astTECS to Unveil Real-Time Collaboration and Enterprise Communication Solution at GITEX Technology Week 2017

astTECS to Unveil Real-Time Collaboration and Enterprise Communication Solution at GITEX Technology Week 2017*astTECS, a leading provider of enterprise telecom technology products and Asterisk based Open Source communication solution, today announced, that the company will be showcasing Open Source based, real-time collaboration and enterprise communication solution at GITEX Technology Week 2017, the most influential ICT trade show in the gulf region. A front-runner in Open Source communication technologies, *astTECS will be demonstrating an extensive portfolio of Asterisk based solutions at, Z-J47, Zaabeel hall, TEPC pavillion, Dubai world trade center, highlighting, how it can help organizations in the middle east and beyond, achieve their digital transformation objectives, enabling businesses steady migration to IP telephony, while leveraging their legacy infrastructure.

At GITEX Technology Week 2017, *astTECS will feature its complete series of new products and latest innovations, that revolutionizes the way businesses connect with customers to create amazing experiences and help them compete more effectively in today’s rapidly changing environment.

Extending its global expansion strategy, *astTECS is keen to appoint partners at key locations in the middle east region and help them leverage Asterisk based Open Source communication solution, while delivering their customers with best-of-breed enterprise grade applications, maintaining a lower total cost of ownership (TCO). “GITEX is the perfect platform for *astTECS to demonstrate its expertise and a premium gateway to discover the latest in technology,” said Dr. Devasia Kurian, CEO, *astTECS. We are showcasing our portfolio of emerging solutions that provide seamless connectivity, simplify processes and integrate security & automation, as we believe that IP PBX is emerging as the focal point of work flow automation, he added.

With strong focus on customer needs, *astTECS Made-In-India products & solutions serves users across the globe and the company continues to leverage its strong capabilities in product innovation, helping enterprises and SMEs capitalize on latest in technology and adapt to customer’s communications requirements and evolving market opportunities.

*astTECS offers the most comprehensive, integrated and compelling telecom infrastructure solution based on Asterisk platform that are feature rich, helps improve consistency & performance and creates a scalable, stable and resilient network that optimizes value. (Source: Convergence Plus)

Twitter testing Android app that uses less mobile data

Twitter testing Android app that uses less mobile dataIn a bid to increase its monthly active users (MAU) in the developing markets where internet connectivity is poor, Twitter has started testing an Android app called 'Twitter Lite' that uses less mobile data to work. In a bid to increase its monthly active users (MAU) in the developing markets where internet connectivity is poor, Twitter has started testing an Android app called ‘Twitter Lite’ that uses less mobile data to work.

Twitter, which has over 328 million total monthly active users — 68 million MAU in the US and 260 million outside — said the app was currently in the test mode in the Philippines, Tech Crunch reported. The app runs Android 5.0 and up, has language support both for English and Filipino and is usable on 2G and 3G networks. “The test of the Twitter Lite app in the Google Play Store in the Philippines is another opportunity to increase the availability of Twitter in this market.

“The Philippines market has slow mobile networks and expensive data plans while mobile devices with limited storage are still very popular there. Twitter Lite helps to overcome these barriers to usage for Twitter in the Philippines,” a Twitter spokesperson said. He said the app was “an experiment” and that Twitter was still evaluating whether to launch it in further markets. The app has basic functions such as breaking news, sports scores and entertainment updates and options to view Timeline, Notifications, the Explore tab, Messages and to customise profile. (Source: Financial Express)

85% of Amazon’s new customers in festival sale from tier-2, 3 cities

85% of Amazon’s new customers in festival sale from tier-2, 3’s Great Indian Festival sale, which ended at Sunday midnight, witnessed a sharp spike in customer acquisition, with 85 per cent of the new customers coming from tier II and III cities compared with 70 per cent during last year’s sale, the company said. This is a significant gain for the e-tailer as it has been sharply focussing on new customer acquisition since its entry into the Indian market in June 2013.

As expected, of the 32 categories on offer, smartphones was the largest selling in value terms and fashion was the largest selling in unit terms with sales of smartphones growing 2.5 times and that of large appliances growing four times over the previous year. Fashion grew seven times in number of units

“This is our biggest shopping event to date, and has been spectacular for us with 50 per cent of the 32 categories on offer doubling in value terms, over the previous year,” Manish Tiwary, Vice-President - Category Management, Amazon India, told BusinessLine, seven hours before the sale was scheduled to end. “We have achieved what we had set out to achieve — growth across categories and new customer acquisition. In fact, we have exceeded our new customer acquisition target and are well placed to begin the next year with a bang.”

According to Tiwary, while Amazon Prime has been the single largest selling product during the sale, with more customers onboard buying more frequently across categories, Amazon Pay balance has witnessed 27 times uplift in top-ups compared with normal days. Amazon devices – Kindle and Fire TV Stick — have grown 20 times.

Cash burn
Asked if the company’s cash burn this season has doubled over the previous year’s with deep discounts running in to as much as 90 per cent, Tiwary said: “It is the brands and sellers who fund the discounts offered during the sale; we just enable them. We invest in infrastructure throughout the year and now have 41 fulfilment centres vs 27 last year.”

Amazon has opened up new pincodes with deliveries to villages in Ladakh, Leh, Andamans and Lakshadweep. It has witnessed a sharp spike in sales in the North East, especially in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, and now services 98 per cent of the pincodes with over 60 per cent growth in sellers over the previous year, the firm said. (Source: The HinduBusiness Line)

Apple to launch iPhone 8, 8 Plus in India at 6 pm on September 29

Apple to launch iPhone 8, 8 Plus in India at 6 pm on September 29Ahead of a crucial meeting of trade ministers of key developed and developing countries in October, a government think tank has cautioned India against including ecommerce disciplines in multilateral trade fora as they will have implications on flagship programmes including Digital India, Startup India and Smart Cities. Besides, they will affect policies on open source software, open standards for e-governance, cloud services and cyber security.

Apple is advancing the time of its India launch for the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus to 6 pm on September 29 to ensure the widest possible sales window, moving away from its practice of starting the sale of new devices at midnight or late evening as in the past two years.  India will get the new phones a week after they go on sale in the US. The company is working to ensure the new iPhones, watch and Apple TV are available on September 29 in India at more than 10,000 retailers, making it the company’s biggest launch in India, said two senior industry executives. They said Apple is targeting over 50 per cent growth in sales in the launch period over last year.

The executives said Apple will roll out an advertising campaign covering airport, digital, radio and print to build the buzz starting with digital on its website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from September 18. The consumer launch event will take place in leading malls on September 29 in nine cities including the National Capital Region, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad, they said.

Pre-bookings will start on September 22 in India and there will be a special launch day cashback offer for consumers using Citibank cards that will ensure India pricing matches that in the US, the executives said. This includes a cashback ofRs 10,000 on the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus and Rs 15,000 for consumers who are buying a new iPhone and Watch Series 3 together. 

Supply Strategy 
Apple is also trying to ensure that there is no shortage of stock by mapping retailers where maximum launch sales took place in the last few years such as the exclusive stores and large chains. It will supply more inventory to these stores while stock will be replenished for other retailers based on actual sales, the executives said. All retailers will have to sign an agreement that they will start sales only after 6 pm on September 29.

“Company officials have indicated they will increase the number of inshop promotions during the launch phase and are extremely bullish about a positive response considering this year the new iPhone will get the full festive season benefit of both Dussehra and Diwali unlike just Diwali in earlier years,” said one executive.

Apple India last Saturday organised a national trade meet in New Delhi where country head Sanjay Kaul and senior officials shared these details with leading retail partners.  In response to a detailed email, an Apple India spokesperson said keeping in mind the customer excitement, India is among the top markets to get the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus a week after the US. “This is the earliest iPhone has ever been available for customers in India,” he said.

Apple India will launch the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus in 64GB and 256GB models starting from Rs 64,000. The new watches will sell at Rs 29,900 and Rs 31,900. The iPhone X will be launched in India at the same time as other big markets including the US on November 3 and priced upwards of Rs 89,000.

Apple has also told the trade that after the new launches, the iPhone 5s and iPhone 7Plus will be discontinued. The range will run from the iPhone SE (32 GB and 128 GB) starting at Rs 26,000, iPhone 6 32GB at Rs 29,500, iPhone 6S (32 GB and 128 GB) starting at Rs 40,000 to iPhone 7 (32 GB and 128 GB) from Rs 49,000 besides the new models. (Source: Economic Times)

Vodafone may extend IBM contract to cover Idea too

Vodafone may extend IBM contract to cover Idea too Vodafone India has begun an exercise to extend its outsourcing contract with IBM to cover Idea CellularBSE -1.12 % as well, besides kicking off work to streamline and standardise all its own IT processes ahead of the proposed $23-billion merger between the phone companies. The move is aimed at making things easier for the proposed union and also means Idea’s existing IBM contract– which runs until 2020–won’t get renewed separately, people familiar with the matter said. The proposed Vodafone-Idea merger is set to shrink the revenue pie for all IT vendors involved, but will likely impact IBM the most as it has contracts with both, one of the persons said.

“We are streamlining our processes and standardising them so that when the merger happens, we have everything documented,” said a top executive at one of the two telcos. “That's not only for IBM but for all the IT vendors. Even the current contracts which are active today will definitely be impacted and streamlined.”

The streamlining of IT processes between both the telcos will take another two quarters to complete, another person said. Vodafone India renewed its outsourcing deal – pegged at around $800 million – with IBM for five years last August. Idea had initially signed a 10-year contract with IBM in 2007, but in 2012 extended it until 2020 in a deal worth $800-900 million.
The reworked contract may be 40-50% lower than the previous combined deal value, the first person said. IBM declined to comment. Vodafone India and Idea Cellular didn’t respond to queries.

IBM gets about $800 million-$ 1billion from the telecom vertical, which is the largest contributor toward its $3 billion-plus yearly revenue in India.

“The telecom vertical’s contribution will go down to $500-700 million only due to the ongoing consolidation among major telcos, including the Vodafone-Idea merger,” said one of those cited above.

The reworked deal may be structured similar to Bharti Airtel's IT outsourcing deal that was renewed in 2014 and is said to be worth over $500 million. The No. 1 telco kept some processes in-house so that a monopoly situation didn’t arise, the person said.

In the newly structured IT outsourcing agreement, analytics, business intelligence and applications are most likely to be drawn from the existing Vodafone contract, given Idea’s existing pact is largely focused on IT infrastructure.

“They are still figuring out what to keep and what to give away before covering the Idea processes and infrastructure under the existing contract,” one person said, adding that negotiations are on to restructure the current Vodafone contract to remove overlaps.

Ashish Kumar, who was vicepresident of cloud at IBM Asia Pacific until earlier this year, has been brought in to work on the Vodafone-Idea merger, said one of the persons. He is said to be the executive who started the telecom journey for IBM in India and was the architect of the initial outsourcing deals with Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India.

Kumar, along with Nipun Mehrotra, IBM’s chief digital officer, Karan Bajwa, managing director at IBM India, and IT services veteran Vikas Arora, who recently joined IBM as cloud business leader, are all working on big strategic outsourcing deals, including the Vodafone and Idea contracts, said one of the persons cited

IBM’s Bajwa recently told ET that the ongoing consolidation in the telecom industry will open up new opportunities for the company in different areas. “Our customers will merge, and not the number of subscribers in India as the size increases,” he said.

Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief analyst and founder of Greyhound Research, said, “There is an increased uptake of cloud and opex (operating expenditure).

This along with the fact that the merger is happening is bound to have an impact on the deal size.”

According to Greyhound Research analysis, IBM's erstwhile large and long-term outsourcing deals are quickly getting broken into multiple smaller--and shorter-term--managed services deals with components of cloud delivery.

“We have also observed IBM India’s increasing unwillingness to participate in outcome-based deals,” Gogia said. (Source: Economic Times)

Paytm Mall plans Rs 1000 crore spend

Paytm Mall plans Rs 1000 crore spend Paytm Mall has set aside Rs 1,000 crore for marketing, cashback and promotions in September-October in the runup to its first festive season. Run by Paytm E-commerce, it is gunning to compete with online retail market majors Flipkart and Amazon India with an aggressive budget.

Paytm Mall's marketing budget is over three times more than what its competitors Amazon India, Snapdeal and Flipkart spent last year, according to numbers available with research firm Forrester. "Amazon India, Snapdeal and Flipkart spent Rs 250-300 crore last year in promoting these (festive) sales," said Satish Meena, senior forecast analyst, Forrester Research.

"We anticipate similar spending this year, with Amazon and Flipkart expected to fill the gap created by Snapdeal in terms of spending this year, with Amazon and Flipkart expected to fill the gap created by Snapdeal in terms of spending."

Over the past few weeks, Paytm Mall -which did not have brand stores on its platform -has brought on board 1,000 brand stores and 15,000 brand-authorised retailers. It plans to add 5,000 large brands and shops ahead of Diwali. "This festive season, while online retailers will focus on spending money and taking away business from shops in the neighborhood, we will work with them and bring special offers for consumers to shop from their nearby markets by enabling these shopkeepers with mobile technology," said Amit Sinha, COO, Paytm Mall.

Analysts believe that Paytm Mall may give tough competition to Amazon and Flipkart with respect to appliances and consumer electronics, but not when it comes to fashion retail, where the rivals have built deeper catalogue and logistics capabilities. Paytm Mall is aiming for a $4 billion gross merchandise volume by end of this year. (Source: Economic Times)

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