Reshuffling deck chairs amid a week of hectic dealmaking


Tammy Parker, FierceBroadbandWirelessAnother day, another million-dollar or billion-dollar deal. At least that's how this week seemed, and it's not even over yet.

Of course, the week kicked off with news that Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is finally buying out Vodafone's interest in Verizon Wireless, coughing up $130 billion to get full control of the U.S. wireless operator. Then came the shocking news (though some had suspected as much) that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) was buying Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) phone business for $7.2 billion in a deal that some consider akin to reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Our sister publication FierceWireless wrote that although there were obviously strategic reasons for both deals, the timing for them was driven by cheap debt and worries about the trajectory of future interest rates. In short, it was now or never.

Those same issues may have influenced a couple of other acquisition agreements that followed on the heels of the first two, but these other deals, much smaller in scope, are cash-based.

In the first case, Amdocs announced it intends to acquire Actix for about $120 million in cash via a transaction that is expected to close by the end of this month. Privately held Actix specializes in mobile network optimizing technology, which Amdocs intends to integrate with its customer relationship management and billing software. Amdocs said it will expand its customer experience systems (CES) portfolio with geo-located network data provided by Actix' technology platforms to drive a variety of optimization use cases.

As soon as the ink dried on that agreement, news arrived that chipmaker Broadcom is acquiring LTE-related assets from affiliates of Renesas Electronics for some $164 million in cash through a transaction that should close before year's end.

The biggest score in this deal may be a dual-core LTE SoC that Broadcom describes as "ready for volume production and is carrier-validated by leading global operators in North America, Japan and Europe." Basically, the chip is ready to be popped into any product that needs LTE connectivity, which is why Broadcom said the acquisition is expected to accelerate availability of its first multimode, carrier-validated LTE SoC platform into early 2014.

Broadcom is also buying a Renesas-developed multimode, multiband, LTE-A/HSPA+/EDGE modem IP that supports carrier aggregation and VoLTE.

Also in this week's financial news, Shared Spectrum Company, which develops embedded RF spectrum-sensing software products and dynamic spectrum access technologies announced that it raised $3 million in its first-ever round of outside funding. The money came from "strategic investors with deep experience and core expertise in the government and commercial wireless markets," the company said.

Founded in 2000 and based in Vienna, Va., Shared Spectrum is headed by wireless industry veteran Tom Stroup.

And finally, in a story we've been following for the past few weeks, Alvarion and its patents are being sold to Valley Telecom for a revised offer of no less than $10.42 million. It took Alvarion's court-appointed receiver a couple of rounds of negotiating with a handful of bidders to settle on the final figures, but a Tel Aviv district court approved the sale on Sept. 4.

Actually, I should not have written "finally." As I noted, not only is this week far from over, but there are four months left in 2013 that could see even more deals come down the pike.

As I write this, BlackBerry is reportedly working to set up an auction process for itself that could be wrapped up by November. The handset maker has acknowledged that it is exploring "strategic alternatives."

Meanwhile, Reuters is reporting that Huawei senior vice president and board member Chen Lifang said the Chinese company is not interested in buying BlackBerry or any other handset maker. Huawei was reportedly interested in Nokia before Microsoft cut a deal for Nokia's phone business.

I wonder if Huawei might yet be interested in making an infrastructure play by taking over the "new Nokia" that will be dominated by the Nokia Solutions and Networks business or perhaps by acquiring beleaguered network gear vendor Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU).

The wireless industry offers lots of M&A possibilities, and after this week there are very few pairings that would surprise me.--Tammy

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