What's up with… AT&T, Nokia, Reliance Jio and the TM Forum

  • AT&T to spin off its WarnerMedia holding to shareholders as part of its media merger with Discovery
  • Nokia leads new ‘beyond 5G’ radio tech push
  • Jio receives Open API plaudits

AT&T's efforts to do the right thing by its investors, Nokia's latest 'beyond 5G' R&D initiative, and some Open API action from India's largest mobile operator are today's lead news roundup items. 

AT&T announced plans to spin off its holding in WarnerMedia to its shareholders as part of the previously-announced deal to combine its media units with Discovery: AT&T shareholders will get 0.24 of a share in Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) for each AT&T share owned. AT&T expects to take proceeds of $43 billion from the media merger and plans to use those funds to position itself as “one of the best capitalised 5G and fibre broadband companies in the US”. It expects increased investment in 5G and fibre to result in 200 million people being covered by 5G C-band network by the end of 2023, and to roll out fibre to 30 million customer locations by the end of 2025. Approximately 71% of the new company, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), will be held by AT&T’s shareholders, and the remaining 29% will be owned by existing Discovery shareholders. AT&T will also have around 7.2 billion diluted shares outstanding following the deal finalisation. The transaction is expected to be finalised in the second quarter of this year. “We believe that the remaining AT&T and the new WBD are two equities that the market will want to own and the markets to support those equities will develop,” AT&T CEO John Stankey commented. “Rather than try to account for market volatility in the near-term and decide where to apportion value in the process of doing an exchange of shares, the spin-off distribution will let the market do what markets do best,” he added. The operator noted the deal presents it with an opportunity to “deleverage its balance sheet and capitalise on the longer-term demand for connectivity while unlocking value for shareholders in its media assets on a tax-efficient basis and creating through WBD a stronger global competitor in streaming and digital entertainment”. WBD will be led by Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav and is expected to achieve cost synergies of more than $3 billion by the end of the second year following the transaction. In addition, AT&T announced it cut its dividend by almost half - from $2.08 per share to $1.11 per share. AT&T's investors weren't so keen on the overall package, as the operator's share price took a 4.6% hit to drop to $24.34 in early afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Read more in AT&T’s announcement.

A consortium led by Nokia and managed by the University of Oulu is initiating a “massive project,” dubbed RF Sampo, that aims to “speed up the development of RF and antenna technologies and accelerate the transition from 5G to 6G.” RF Sampo is the main Optimized Antenna Technology effort that falls under Nokia’s Veturi program that aims to tap the tech ecosystem in Finland. Among the other project consortium partners are RF design automation software specialist Optenni, test and measurement specialist Keysight Technologies, military radio comms developer Bittium, manufacturing solutions firm Flex, and aerospace and defence firm SAAB. The €14 million project, according to the University of Oulu, which has long been one of the leading lights in 6G R&D, “will enhance future radio platform design by introducing a modelling concept supporting the design of complex wireless solutions. The project will investigate new RF solutions for 5G and 6G including antenna structures, integrated circuits, RF related architectures and algorithms. The RF Sampo project develops new competences, which help the project partners to realize the business potential in various 5G application areas.” For further details, see this announcement from the University of Oulu. 

Reliance Jio, India’s largest mobile operator with more than 400 million customers, has achieved Open API Platinum conformance certification at the TM Forum, the industry body announced today. On the face of it this might not look like much a big deal but it points to a very important trend in the industry – the use and deployment of open APIs, which will be absolutely critical if telcos are to survive in the cloud-oriented world of digital services. Reliance Jio is to be applauded for adopting the APIs but equally the TM Forum must be applauded for its efforts in making these APIs available to the market in a way that, hopefully, will bring some conformity and interoperability to the market. And it’s worth noting which other companies have bene making good use of the TM Forum’s Open APIs – Comviva, Inspur, Tecnotree, Totogi and Whale Cloud. Hats off to them too and it will likely stand them in good stead. For more, see this announcement.  

Orange hailed an initiative it claimed is “the largest 5G network deployment plan on the 700MHz frequency band in Spain.” Throughout the year, the technology will be offered in more than 1,100 towns and cities in the country, the majority of which have between 1,000 and 50,000 citizens. The company, in this announcement (in Spanish), pledged to also cover 140 towns with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants in an effort to seal the digital divide gap. And it will also offer 5G services using the 700MHz band in 140 cities that have more than 50,000 citizens. The operator said the frequency band is “essential” to enable the biggest advantages of 5G, including high download speed and capacity, and ultra-low latency. It claims benefits will be seen through enhancements in economic recovery boosted by digital transformation and nation productivity. Orange, which had 620,000 5G customers in Spain by 30 September 2021, landed the largest amount of spectrum in the two priority bands for 5G in the latest auction, paying €350 million for two blocks of 2x5 MHz spectrum. (See Spain’s latest 5G spectrum auction raises just €1 billion.)

Chip giant Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has moved a step closer to its planned $35 billion acquisition of Xilinx following clearance for the deal from China’s Anti-Monopoly Policy Bureau. The companies now expect the merger to close during the next couple of months, AMD noted in this SEC filing.   

RCS (Rich Communication Services) are on course to be used by 3.8 billion people by 2026, up from 1.2 billion this year, according to Juniper Research. That growth will, in turn, lead to improving RCS-generated revenues for operators, which are due to rise from $230 million this year to $4.6 billion in 2026, according to the projections of the Juniper Research team. The numbers, though, suggest that RCS isn’t exactly going to make too much of a difference to ARPU or profitable revenue generation numbers, as $4.6 billion isn’t much of a return from 3.8 billion users: For the telcos’ sake let’s hope there are some other benefits to be had from sticking with RCS as a messaging services platform. The forecast came just as Deutsche Telekom was announcing its intention to accelerate its RCS marketing efforts as part of an enhanced collaboration with Google. Read more

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