THE WRAP: PLDT gets bigger; RIM shares get pounded
It was the week that saw mobile consolidation in the Philippines, a rough week for RIM and a potentially pricier NBN for Australia.
PLDT took control of the Philippines’ No. 3 cellco Sun Cellular this week by acquiring 51.55% of its owner, DigiTel in a deal valued at $1.7 billion (€1.19 billion). The deal will boost PLDT’s market share by 15 million subscribers, but consumer groups worry that it also spells the end of unlimited calls and SMSs for Sun’s users.
RIM had an unexpectedly bad start to the week after announcing a profitable FY2011 on Friday. Net profit was up 47% and revenues grew by a third, but RIM shares took a dive after revealing it expected reduced earnings per share for the current quarter due to this month’s PlayBook launch and expected component shortages due to the Japan quake/tsunami.
It can’t have helped that PlayBook will reportedly launch without a native email app, according to an internal Verizon document acquired by the CrackBerry blog. The document says email will be supported via a future software update, but a BlackBerry device without email may not go over well with customers.
In other news for the week, the Australian government finally passed key National Broadband Network amendments through parliament – but not without conceding to changes. In particular, independent MP Rob Oakeshott said the government had given him a written guarantee that prices for future broadband technologies would be the same for both fiber and wireless segments of the project, which could well increase the cost of the project.
It was a big week for TD-LTE, with China Mobile awarding its first trial contracts. Alcatel-Lucent and NSN were the main winners to get their foot in the door first.
Also, TD-LTE is headed for Denmark with Hi3G contracting ZTE to supply a dual 4G network running both FDD and TDD-based LTE.
Meanwhile, however, Maxis’s head of technology development warned delegates at this year’s Mobile Broadband Asia event in Singapore that FDD LTE does have its limitations, especially at higher frequencies, “Don’t get rid of your RF engineers yet,” advised Denis Seek.
Results for the week: Hutchison Whampoa Ltd’s 3 Group reported its first-ever annual operating profit since opening shop in 2003, which also helped HWL boost its 2010 net profit 47%. China Unicom saw its yearly net profit drop almost 60% as the cost of rolling out 3G services (namely, handset subsidies, particularly for the iPhone 4) took its toll.
In India this week, the government is reportedly being pressured by the US to drop tough telecoms security measures, including its bid to gain access to encrypted e-mails and phone calls; and Idea Cellular went live with 3G services, and its long expected spectrum sharing deal with rivals Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar could be around the corner;
In regulatory news this week, Bharti Airtel reportedly may be facing fines of up to 1.26 billion rupees (€20 million) over misreported revenue and alleged failure to comply with regulatory requirements uncovered by the DoT’s audit of the country’s cellcos.
In Bangladesh, BTRC revealed its own plans to audit all the nation's major telecom service providers for any sign of creative bookkeeping. It also reportedly promised to review a ban on five of nine PSTN operators that had been caught providing international VoIP services without the state's permission.
It was an active week for mobile payments: VNPT EPAY – the electronic payment arm of Vietnam’s state-owned VNPT – prepped to offer customers international remittances via a connection to BICS’ global remittance hub; and Microsoft will include m-payment features in the next version of Windows Phone in a bid to keep up with Android, according to Bloomberg.
And finally, it was the week that saw Google choose the first US city that gets to try its 1-Gbps FTTH project next year. So congrats to Kansas City, Kansas.