What’s up with… KPN, Samsung & Deutsche Telekom, TIP, AT&T

  • M&A speculation swirls around KPN
  • DT checks out Samsung’s 5G network gear
  • TIP makes more room on its board
  • Massive charge takes AT&T to a Q4 loss

Speculation about KPN’s future, an interesting 5G trial in central Europe and the latest from TIP and AT&T fill the top spots in today’s news review.

Speculation is swirling around a potential takeover bid for Dutch national operator KPN after telecoms magnate and one of the world’s richest people, Carlos Slim, raised his stake in the operator to 20% from 16%, reports De Telegraaf. Slim, who controls America Movil and other telecoms operator assets, previously tried to acquire the Dutch operator in 2013. KPN’s share price is up almost 3% to €2.68, giving it a market value of about €11.25 billion. The news emerged as KPN reported financials in line with expectations, with full year 2020 revenues of €5,28 billion, down 3.9% year-on-year, an operating profit of €912 million, down 12%, and capex for the year of €1.15 billion, up by 3%. It expects its 2021 capex to be about €1.2 billion. For more details, see this financial report.

Signs that Deutsche Telekom is spreading its radio access network infrastructure bets come from the Czech Republic, where the operator has undertaken a 5G standalone network trial in the city of Pilsen with Samsung’s networks division. “We are pleased to collaborate with Samsung to verify the performance of its 5G SA solution,” said Alex Choi, SVP Strategy & Technology Innovation at Deutsche Telekom in this press release. DT has long used network technology from Huawei and a few years ago swapped out Nokia RAN gear in its domestic German market for Ericsson, but now the operator is starting to check out the potential of Open RAN options for its 5G networks and, it seems, is also in meaningful engagement with Samsung. 

The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) has added Dell Technologies’ CTO Ihab Tarazi to its Board of Directors. “TIP is driving significant change in how the industry operates. It is collaborating in new ways to progress innovative open, disaggregated, interoperable technologies in order to foster a new ecosystem that benefits all stakeholders,” noted Tarazi in this TIP announcement. Also joining the Board is Juan Carlos García, SVP Technology and Ecosystem, global CTIO unit, at Telefónica and a regular participant in TelecomTV Summits. He becomes the Spanish operator’s board representative, taking over from David Del Val, who “has been an invaluable member and has played a vital role in the organization’s development,” noted Yago Tenorio, Chairman and President of TIP and Vodafone Group’s Head of Network Strategy and Architecture.

AT&T reported a 2.4% year-on-year dip in fourth quarter 2020 revenues to $45.7 billion and a 5.2% dip in full year revenues to $171.8 billion, and recorded an operating loss of $10.7 billion for the fourth quarter (mainly because of a non-cash asset impairment charge of $15.5 billion in its DirecTV business) and a 77% dip in full year operating income to $6.4 billion. Its full year capex came in at $15.7 billion, 20% less than in 2019: That is set to leap in 2021 to about $18 billion. AT&T ended 2020 with 182.6 million mobile customers. For further details, see this investor briefing document

Still with AT&T… The giant US operator is being sued for $1.35 billion by Seattle-based Network Apps LLC, which claims AT&T has unlawfully used its patented technology in the NumberSync device synchronization systems used by the carrier. As Reuters reports, Network Apps is seeking $450 million in damages, but wants that tripled because of the operator’s alleged “willful and egregious infringement.”

Here’s a chilling turnaround tale: Only a few months ago, the Jack Ma-backed Ant Group was about to list its shares in a monster IPO on the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets, but the IPO was pulled at the last minute after Ma criticized China’s financial regulatory authorities. Then Ma seemed to go AWOL before re-appearing last week. Now, it seems, Ant is about to undergo a major reorganization that will see it become a financial holding company overseen by China’s central bank. What might have happened if Ma had kept his thoughts to himself, one wonders?

Nordic operator Elisa has tested a 1 Tbit/s IP interface on its commercial network using technology from Nokia. Elisa upgraded some of its routers with terabit interfaces “powered by Nokia’s FP4 chipset, the industry’s first terabit capable routing silicon. The new FP4 terabit linecard supports two 1T ports and demonstrated deployment readiness by carrying live traffic on Elisa’s network,” noted the vendor in this press release

Nokia also says it has also landed a deal with Ooredoo Algeria for its cloud native core platform 

There’s been a lot of M&A activity in the mobile towers sector lately, especially in Europe and Latin America. Here’s a great blog by Tom Leins at Telegeography looking at the main neutral host mobile infrastructure companies operating in Latin America, including American Tower and the operation it is in the process of acquiring, Telxius. (See Telefónica sells its mobile towers division for €7.7 billion.)

The ‘Assignment Phase’ of the FCC’s Auction 107 is to start on 8 February. The auction made available licenses for 280 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.7–3.98 GHz band, or C-band: The ‘clock phase’ of the auction ended on 15 January with bidders pledging $80.92 billion for 5,684 spectrum blocks that were available. 

- The staff, TelecomTV

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