What’s up with... Orange, Zoom & Five9, KORE

  • Orange deposits another €230 million in its banking unit
  • Zoom’s $14.7 billion acquisition of Five9 is off
  • KORE reverses into an NYSE listing

In today’s news roundup, Orange has to go it alone on its bank job, while Zoom’s planned mega-acquisition of Five9 gets nixed.  

Orange is having to pump further funds, €230 million in fact, into its banking subsidiary, Orange Bank, having seemingly failed to have found a joint investment partner or buyer: Earlier this year, Reuters reported that the operator was seeking a new investor to help accelerate the development of the banking services. Now, Orange says the new capital increase will “speed up the growth projects envisaged in the bank's strategic plan,” but that statement has more than a hint of bravado about it. At the same time, Orange has agreed to buy (for an undisclosed sum) the 21.7% stake held by Groupama in the Orange Bank operation, which now provides services to 1.6 million customers in France and Spain (about half use banking services while the other half buy insurance). Orange seeded its banking operations by acquiring a 65% stake in Groupama Banque in 2016. 

Zoom and cloud-based contact centre specialist Five9 have “mutually terminated” the $14.7 billion takeover deal announced in July because Five9 did “not obtain the requisite stockholder support for the merger agreement.” Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan stated: “While we were excited about the benefits this transaction would bring to both Zoom and Five9 stakeholders, including the long-term potential for both sets of shareholders, financial discipline is foundational to our strategy.” He added that while Zoom is developing its own cloud-based contact centre platform, “we also plan to maintain our valued existing contact center partnerships with companies like Five9, Genesys, NICE inContact, Talkdesk, and Twilio.”

IoT connectivity-as-a-service specialist KORE has listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) via a merger with Cerberus Telecom, a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company). “I am thrilled to celebrate this milestone on the KORE journey and reflect on how far we have come since we launched our transformation almost three years ago,” said KORE President and CEO Romil Bahl. “From the beginning of my tenure here, I have personally believed that becoming a public company was an important next step in the evolution of this great company and team – a step that will allow us to continue our goal of leading the industry as we enter the ‘decade of IoT.’ The natural attributes of our business including the growth potential given the massive market tailwinds over the next decade, our revenue visibility, and recurring revenue, make for excellent public-company characteristics.” Read more.

After four days of bidding, 3.89 billion krone (US$451 million) was raised in Norway’s 5G auction of spectrum in the 2.6 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands. Altibox, Ice, Telia and Telenor were successful: For the full details, see this announcement from regulator NKom. 

As ever-increasing numbers of the Earth’s population get their first, second or even third dose of anti-Covid-19 vaccine and as the virus seems (perhaps) to be waning in some countries, worldwide Internet traffic and bandwidth levels are dropping back towards the levels last seen in 2019 before the pandemic struck. The telecoms market research and consultancy outfit TeleGeography’s latest Global Internet Geography Research Service analysis of capacity, traffic and IP transit pricing concludes that both average traffic growth and peak traffic growth are slowing as vague outlines of the post-Covid world become discernible through the miasma caused by the virus. Basing its report on data from surveys conducted with network operators and telcos from around the globe, TeleGeography concludes that the huge spike in demand for comms services, that was the result of the sudden worldwide pivot to remote home working when Covid brought peoples, societies and economies to their knees, is now over and normal levels of demand are reasserting themselves. The TeleGeography figures speak for themselves. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, global bandwidth – which is “the capacity deployed by internet backbone providers” -- was up by 34 per cent on 2019, but is now reducing. That said, the steady reversion to the status quo ante is reflected in a marked decline in the annual Internet demand growth rate which this year, to date, is 29 per cent. The average traffic growth rate in 2019-2020 was 48 per cent. It fell to 23 per cent over 2020 and into early 2021. Meanwhile, peak traffic growth dropped from 46 per cent to 26 per cent over the same period. The report shows that total international bandwidth ‘lit’ is 786Tbps, which translates into a four-year (2017-2021) compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29 per cent. Africa experienced the biggest increase in international Internet bandwidth, with 45 per cent growth.

Email, messaging and social network and mobile Internet addiction in Europe and other parts of the world is as pervasive as it is dispiriting but perhaps not yet quite as bad as in the US where people check their smartphones 96 times a day, every day! Asurion, a tech services company based in Nashville, Tennessee, has just published new research showing that Americans are so dependent on their mobile handsets to validate their very existence that they constantly check for messages day and night alike. Some even set alarms to wake them in the wee small hours that they don’t “miss out” on anything - apart from sleep and mental and physical health, of course. Asurion says its research shows that the incidence of obsessive checking has increased by 20 per cent since an earlier survey conducted in 2019. As might be expected it’s the 18 year-old to 24 year-old group that are the worst repeat offenders, checking their phones twice as often as all other age groups. Ironically, the survey also found that ninety per cent of users feel annoyed and offended when someone with whom they are having a real-time, real-life conversation suddenly blanks them to start to gawp at their handsets. That seems fair enough but, get this: Incredibly, 75 per cent of those who feel aggrieved when they are suddenly ignored freely admit to themselves ignoring colleagues, friends and family whenever a message comes in or a new picture of a kitten arrives. Meanwhile and simultaneously, 50 per cent of US smartphone owners claim their devices allow them to achieve a better work/life balance. The conflicting attitudes and behaviours make little sense but the research shows that the accepted social mores of the pre-mobile phone world are dying a long, slow death as device takes increasing precedence over person. 

Orange has bought a controlling stake in fixed operator, Telekom Romania Communications (TKR), giving Orange Romania 54% control of one of Romania’s leading fixed telecom operators, with the remaining 46% stake retained by the Romanian State. The successful transaction will now herald the acceleration of Orange’s strategy to be the preferred convergent services provider in Romania, it claims. Read more...

Enterprises are increasingly outsourcing device authentication and data management to public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) says Ericsson. It claims enterprises using Ericsson IoT Accelerator to manage cellular devices such as sensors or meters now have a much simpler way to connect to the already secure AWS server - through Ericsson's IoT Accelerator Cloud Connect which moves complex encryption from the device to the edge of the cellular network. Ericsson has more information on this here...

Nokia has announced a ‘charging configurator microservice’ for its Converged Charging (NCC) monetization solution. It means CSPs can create new charging logic and service offers and move faster to market when configuring new and innovative 5G services, Nokia claims. The solution uses an intuitive user interface with drag and drop functionality and natural language statements to create new pricing and market offers, without the need for any coding. Read more…

Mavenir has announced its next-generation Operations Support System (ngOSS), a new addition to the MAVscale platform. It claims the new solution brings together a powerful combination of AI, Analytics, Automation, and Orchestration, and will allow CSPs to deployngOSS in their 4G networks today while preparing for 5G, the company claims. Read more...

Samsung Electronics today announced the company will deploy its cloud-native fullyvirtualized Radio Access Network (vRAN) solutions for the mid-band spectrum inKDDI’s 5G network. Samsung and KDDI have been collaborating on advanced research on vRAN to drive 5G innovation for KDDI’s network. Most recently, the companies successfully completed the first 5G Standalone (SA) call using Samsung’s vRAN and another vendor’s 5G Massive MIMO radios, which are O-RAN compliant. Read more...

US senators have been grilling a Facebook exec (as they do) on Facebook’s plans to protect its young users. Antigone Davis, Facebook's global head of safety, should be properly done to a turn by now as the heat from the Senate consumer protection subcommittee has come at a particularly unfortunate moment for the sprawling social media giant.  This week, in response to growing opposition, Instagram (well, Facebook really) has announced that it will no longer proceed with an ill-conceived plan for ‘Instagram Kids’ (as it sounds, an attempt to get pre-teens hooked on social media). At the same time a damning - if true - series of stories has appeared laying out how Facebook’s ‘internal’ research showed how the Instagram app harmed the mental health of teens. The killer point with that was that the media giant was ‘aware’ of the research findings, but chose to keep them unreleased. This casting of the story immediately surfaced the collective memory of suppressed internal tobacco research which did the same thing over smoking’s link to cancer.

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