What’s up with... Virgin Media O2, Ericsson, Reliance Jio
- Virgin Media O2 goes alone with roaming fee pledge
- Ericsson boasts Cloud RAN security milestone
- Reliance Jio tipped for IPO
An attractive roaming fee stand by Virgin Media O2, a security milestone for Ericsson’s Cloud RAN platform and talk of a potential mega-IPO by India’s leading operator are today’s tastiest news nibbles.
There’s some good news for the UK’s Virgin Media O2 subscribers with the company affirming that it “will not be reintroducing roaming fees in Europe.” The operator is claiming the moral high ground (and forgoing some revenues) whilst getting a lot of approving media coverage and gaining a competitive advantage over EE, Three UK, and Vodafone, the other three of Britain’s Big Four mobile service providers that are to reintroduce roaming fees within a few weeks or month, despite having previously pledged not to do so. Gareth Turpin, the Chief Commercial Officer, Mobile at VMO2, commented, “With Covid still scuppering plans and disrupting day to day routines for so many, we’re starting the year by giving our customers some certainty. We will not be reintroducing roaming fees in Europe. Across both O2 and Virgin Mobile we’re maintaining our inclusive roaming so that our customers can travel to destinations all over Europe and use their data, calls and texts just as they would in the UK.” That said, if a week is a long time in politics, a few months in mobile telecoms are like generations passing by in the twinkling of an eye. In other words, it’ll be interesting to see for how long VMO2 will keep its promise. Back in 1997 the UK left Hong Kong and handed control of the colony back to China. It did so under the terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a treaty in which the Chinese government agreed to guarantee the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong’s citizens for fifty years after the handback. In 2020, just 23 years later, the Chinese government reneged on the agreement saying it now regarded the treaty as an “historical document of an earlier time” and thus no longer relevant. Just saying...
Ericsson says its Cloud RAN platform has passed the independent Network Equipment Security Assurance Scheme (NESAS) audit, “making it fully compliant with the security requirements defined by global standards organizations 3GPP and GSMA.” Read more.
India’s largest operator, Reliance Jio, is likely to file for an IPO or be spun off as a separately listed company from its parent, Reliance Industries, and carry a valuation of almost US$100 billion, according to multiple media reports from India, including this one from the Economic Times.
Back in 2020, when T-Mobile US acquired Sprint in a US$26 billion all shares deal, the company got some plaudits but many analysts thought it was a step too far and that the telco would suffer for its hubris. They were wrong. So were the nay-sayers who reckoned T-Mobile US had over-extended itself in buying-up spectrum. There is no doubt that now the US mobile market is reduced to three major players there is less consumer choice than before the Sprint buyout while the smartphone and broadband subscriptions market is highly saturated. Hence the frenetic “cut-price/better bundles” aggressively promoted as the Big Three fight over the remaining crumbs of available market share. Indeed, there’s a whiff of panic in the air, at least as far as AT&T and Verizon are concerned. That’s because T-Mobile is doing very nicely indeed thanks to a successful two-pronged broadband deployment strategy. The first aspect was to use its 600MHz RF to extend coverage to small, rural and remote areas of the US that left AT&T and Verizon trailing in its wake. Now T-Mobile US has just finished rolling out mid-band spectrum to a potential 200 million customers providing considerably higher speeds that 4G and enabling the carrier to claim that has achieved “nationwide” 5G coverage. Now analysts are opining that, in terms of 5G deployment, T-Mobile has an unassailable two-year lead over its rivals. They add that by the time AT&T and Verizon eventually catch-up to where T-Mobile US is now, it will already providing 300 million subscribers with mid-band 5G. AT&T and Verizon are making much of the enhanced rollout that will come in 2023 when they will get a second tranche of C-band spectrum. But so will T-Mobile. In other words, AT&T and Verizon will be running to stand still while T-Mobile US is already boasting about the huge pile of free cash flow it will have next year - and in the years following - and the further development that will follow from spending some of it.
The smart speaker company Sonos has won a court case in which it claimed Google was in breach of Sonos patents. Yes, come hell, high water or global pandemics, the patent wars go on relentlessly providing a background soundtrack of dissonance down the decades and fat pay-packets for the lawyers. Late last week the US International Trade Commission (ITC) found that Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has broken five sound technology patents belonging to Sonos, and has issued a “limited exclusion order” that prohibits the importation of some audio technologies, controllers, and components manufactured by Google. It comes into effect in 60 days. Google, entirely used to being the biggest shark in a murky tank, is aggrieved at having been bested in court by a minnow and, as usual is baring its teeth, rolling its eyes and threatening to appeal the decision. The court case lasted a full year, of course it did. In it Sonos alleged that after it became the junior partner in a technology agreement with Google back in 2013, Google thereafter “blatantly and knowingly copied” several patented pieces of its intellectual property. Google says it did no such thing and that it “disagrees” with the ITC’s ruling. Amusingly, whilst the court case was underway Sonos was, and still is, a technology partner to Google, notwithstanding that Sonos continues to pursue two further patent infringement cases through courts in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Despite its bluster, Google says it will make changes to audio technologies by “updating” software, starting with its smart speakers. What this is likely to mean in practice is that Sonos-patented features that control domestic audio systems, such as the immensely popular synching of multiple speakers, the independent control of the volume of different speakers and the stereo-pairing of speakers will be “degraded” or even disappear altogether, much to the chagrin and annoyance of users who have paid good money to enjoy those features. Biting back at Google, Sonos says that even with the expected changes, Google will “still infringe on many dozens of Sonos patents, its wrongdoing will persist, and the damages owed Sonos will continue to accrue.” In response, Google, using the plural personal pronoun of royalty, as only becomes an imperator rex, says, “We will continue to defend ourselves against Sonos' frivolous claims about our partnership and intellectual property". Want to take odds that this will end in an out-of-court settlement? No, me neither.
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