THE WRAP: Thailand blocks 3G deal; HK ops stick with unlimited plans

It was the week that saw legal setbacks for CAT Telecom and TrueMoveH, as Hong Kong cellcos clung to unlimited mobile data plans (mostly), Indian cellcos geared up for 2G spectrum auctions, and Telenor pledged to fight for compensation in the country while settling a dispute over VimpelCom
 
It was a rough week for Thai operators CAT Telecom and TrueMoveH after a senate committee concluded that their 3G network deal is illegal.
 
TrueMoveH itself isn't in trouble – CAT Telecom is the entity found by the senate committee to have violated three laws in signing a concession agreement with TrueMoveH to effectively extend its concession by 14 years, thus giving it a head start in launching a 3G network. But it’s unclear what the findings could mean for True’s 3G ambitions.
 
It was also the week in which Hong Kong’s new fair usage policy (FUP) regulations took effect, with the city’s four major mobile broadband operators expected to drop unlimited data plans the day the policy took effect.
 
In the end, only PCCW killed its unlimited plan, with CSL, 3 HK and SmarTone electing to keep them for the time being. SmarTone’s decision landed it in hot water with customers and the Consumer Council, as the cellco announced earlier this month it would drop unlimited plans. Result: many customers unnecessarily switched to data-cap plans with fresh two-year lock-ins. 
 
In other news for the week, major incumbent mobile operators were reportedly lining up to participate in the auction of spectrum that will be freed up in the wake of a court decision to revoke 122 2G licenses.
 
Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar, Aircel and other incumbent operators plan to participate in the upcoming auction, the Economic Times reported. But operators preparing for the cancellation of their 2G licenses, including Uninor, argue that third parties should not be allowed to participate in the auction.
 
 
Meanwhile, Indian telecom regulator TRAI is considering a cap on foreign ownership of telecom tower companies, reducing it from 100% now to 74%, which could cause more issues for current or potential foreign investors in the market.
 
In related news, Uninor stakeholder Telenor said this week it is seeking compensation from Indian partner Unitech regarding the cancellation of its licenses, and will ditch Unitech in favor of a replacement partner in India.
 
The Norwegian incumbent also drew a line under a long-running battle with Altimo over their stakes in Russian operator VimpelCom, by agreeing to buy 234 million preferred VimpelCom shares from Weather Investments. The deal gives Telenor the same voting rights it was seeking through arbitration against Altimo.
 
It was also the week where Apple asked the Fair Labor Association (FLA) to conduct an independent audit of its assembly suppliers, including the Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu. The audit will cover issues such as health and safety, pay and working hours.
 
Meanwhile, Chinese investigators began seizing iPads from retailers this week after a complaint from Shenzhen Proview Technology, which claims to own the iPad name, Associated Press reported.
 
Research firm Disruptive Analysis predicted growth in the number of telcos offering in-house OTT services, revealing there are already at least 80 services in operation. In other forecasts, InStat warned low-price Android smartphones could fragment the operating system; while Analysys Mason predicted mobile voice will remain the main earner in sub-Saharan Africa through 2016.
 
In business news for the week: Credit rating agency Moody's downgraded its bond rating for SK Telecom; SingTel reported a 9.6% drop in net profit in the December quarter, despite a 2.7% increase in revenue; and Swisscom’s annual profit fell 61% to 694 million Swiss Francs (€574 million), due mostly to an impairment charge on its Italian subsidiary Fastweb.
 
Regulators in Europe and the US approved Google's $12.5 billion (€9.4 billion) takeover of Motorola Mobility. (The deal now just needs to be cleared in China, Taiwan and Israel.)
 
And finally it was the week where we learned that Nortel executives allegedly knew that their computers were breached by hackers but didn’t bother to tell anyone.
 
 
According to the Wall Street Journal, hackers (allegedly from China) penetrated Nortel's computers as far back as 2000 and “over the years downloaded technical papers, research-and-development reports, business plans, employee emails and other documents”.
 
Brian Shields, a former 19-year Nortel veteran who led an internal investigation, claims Nortel failed to act on the breach, and didn’t tell any of the companies that bought its assets, including Avaya, Ciena, Ericsson and Genband (all of which downplayed the notion that they had inherited any of Nortel’s security problems).

Security experts are aghast.

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