Archive for the ‘telecoms’ Category

Nokia launches first handset on China Mobile 3G standard

nokia logoHere at Emerging Voice, we have been following the the whole Nokia / China Mobile / 3G story for a good while, you can pick up on some of those previous posts here : Nokia in China

Today, Nokia has finally launched it’s first TD-SCDMA compliant handsets the Nokia 6788, which was built from the ground up for China Mobile.


Nokia (NYSE: NOK) today announced the Nokia 6788, its first device for TD-SCDMA – China’s domestic 3G standard, at an event in Beijing. The Nokia 6788 is the result of close collaboration between Nokia and the world’s largest mobile phone operator, China Mobile.

Speaking at the event, said Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, CEO of Nokia: “Nokia sees TD-SCDMA as being central to the successful evolution of 3G in China, and so is fully committed to this 3G standard. With a wide range of integrated China Mobile applications, the Nokia 6788 marks a new level of collaboration with China Mobile and offers enriched experiences to China’s 3G users. Nokia plans to introduce more TD-SCDMA phones in the near future, further boosting the development of this 3G standard in China.”

“We are excited to see the launch of Nokia 6788,” said Mr. Lu Xiangdong, Vice President of China Mobile Communications Corporation. “With extensive experience in the China market, Nokia will provide Chinese consumers with TD-SCDMA solutions that are perfectly catered to their needs. Such cooperation between the world’s largest operator and the world’s leading mobile phone manufacturer will provide an important boost to the development of TD-SCDMA in China.”

The Nokia 6788 is specifically designed for China Mobile’s (NYSE: CHL) network and offers rich data services. It is an all-in-one device that provides its users with faster Internet speeds and download times. Featuring a 5-megapixel (2592 x1944) camera with a dual-LED flash, a 2.8″ QVGA display, and the hugely-successful Symbian S60 platform, the Nokia 6788 allows people to instantly share the things that matter to them most.

& here’s some pics

Nokia 6788

we apologise for the Engadget style of this post, but it’s been a long time coming !!

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Strong VAS revenues offset by weak dollar for Millicom

millicomEmerging Markets focussed telecom operator Millicom International (Nasdaq:MICC) has  posted a 12% decrease in net profits of US$143mn in the third quarter of 2009 compared to US$161mn in the same quarter a year ago, the company said in a statement.

Overall revenues were up 7% to US$856mn compared to US$800mn a year ago. However, top line figures have been heavilyimpacted by the dollar exchange rate across all of it’s markets, resulting in a 9% negative translation impact, the company said.

EBITDA has  increased 13% to US$392mn year-on-year, while  margin was 45.8%, up 2.6% compared to Q3 as a result of cost control initiatives and strong growth in higher margin Value Added Services (VAS) revenues. In Central America, Millicom’s Tigo brand returned a margin of 55.2% and in South America the margin increased to 40.7%.

Speaking during a conference call with investors, Millicom‘s CEO Mikael Grahne said the company had seen a lower level of customer intake in Central America, reflecting high voice penetration and an increasing focus on higher value customers and Value Added Services.

For the group, VAS revenue was up an encouraging 46% in the quarter in local currency terms and represented 19% of recurring mobile revenues. Demand for 3G services remains high in Latin America, especially for datacard customers. Paraguay represented the best market overall for VAS, where it brought in 30% of mobile revenues. Grahne said that in the long term, the company is aiming to have VAS represent an average of 25% of revenues across all markets.

In Central America, Honduras grew its customer base 11% year-on-year despite the entry of a third operator Digicel in late 2008. Guatemala grew its customer base by 19% and El Salvador 10%. Net additions were lower in Central America resulting from a combination of high penetration, weaker economic conditions and an increased focus on high quality customers, the company said.

In South America, total customers increased by 17% year on year, with Bolivia surging 47%. In Colombia, the increase was 9% and in Paraguay 12%. Constant currency ARPU in South America was up 2%, while in Central America it fell 5%. This was mainly a result of lower ARPU in Honduras, which was negatively affected by a new regulatory tax on international inbound traffic and continued promotional activity by competitors.

Grahne said that capex for 2010 would be US$700mn, US$50mn of which is held over from 2009. Though not giving a break down, Grahne said that capex in Central and South America would increase in 2010 as the company steps up investment in 3G capacity and coverage.

Millicom’s internet and TV assets that it purchased last year, Amnet and Navega, saw a sequential decline in EBITDA margins to 43% from 45% of revenues in Q2, which Grahne attributed to restructuring changes since the acquisition, but forecast that the margin would rise over time. Millicom also expects capex for Amnet to be lower in the medium term as the company focuses on increasing customer penetration with its existing footprint, rather than extending coverage.

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Baidu clinches mobile search for China Unicom

baidu9Baidu, Inc., the leading Chinese language Internet search provider, today announced it has entered into a strategic partnership with China Unicom (Hong Kong) Limited to provide wireless search for China Unicom’s 3G mobile subscribers.

Under the agreement, Baidu’s wireless search service will be embedded in China Unicom’s 3G mobile phone modules. China Unicom’s mobile subscribers will be able to use preinstalled applications to access Baidu products including web search, Baidu Knows, Baidu Post Bar, image search, news search, MP3 search and other useful services. Baidu (Nasdaq:BIDU)will also provide search functions within China Unicom’s wireless Internet sites to service the carrier’s users.

”We are very excited to join hands with China Unicom (NYSE:CHU) today following our partnership agreement with China Telecom (NYSE:CHA) in May,” said Xuyang Ren, Baidu’s Vice President of Marketing and Business Development. ”As the leader in Chinese language search, we hope that Baidu’s cooperation with major telecom providers in China will accelerate the development of 3G services and allow us to provide the rapidly growing population of mobile search users better access to information.”

This can be seen as a major coup for Baidu, as it has once again managed to pip it’s major competitor Google at the post. For China Unicom this is also a boon, with the upcoming launch of Apple‘s iPhone on their 3G network.

Original editorial : MyStockVoice.com

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Unnatural activity on Turkcell points to another leg up

Having been a long term holder of Turkcell (NYSE:TKC)  & having written about it here on my own blog & Seeking Alpha on a number of occasions, I hadn’t thought recently about an article on the subject. However, a few things in the past week have brought it to the forefront of my mind & a conversation with a contact yesterday peaked my interest, so have been doing some back research & looking a little more intently at the action over the last week.

As (hopefully) anyone that is reading this article knows, Turkcell is the market leader by subscribers & mobile revenues in it’s domestic market, with more than 36.3 million users, or 60%, whilst competitors Vodafone & Avea (Turk Telekom) have 24% & 16% market share respectively.

TKC_Long_term

Last week along with 15 of the country’s major banks, Standard & Poors upgraded TKC‘s long term foreign currency rating from negative to stable. TKC has also been a pretty strong performer this year, hitting a low of $11.15 in March up to a high of $18.09 on Wednesday (of which more in a moment). Looking at the long term chart, it’s been a pretty good trend all year, adhering to it’s 20 day SMA, albeit with some volatility coming in in the last two months or so & also increased volumes being traded since August.

Recently we have seen some interesting sell activity in the stock, with plenty of unnatural selling pressure on Monday 21st September, when more than 75% of the daily trades on the NYSE for TKC were sells, against an exchange average of 48%, this is the first thing that caught my eye, but dismissed as housekeeping & profit taking, which is understandable.

This was then followed by two straight days of reasonably heavy buying, followed again by some sustained selling pressure on the 24th September, again followed by heavier than normal buying again. On Monday this week, we saw this activity starting again,out of  120k  TKC shares traded 94k or 77.85% were to the short side against an exchange average of 47%. Then yesterday, we saw TKC share volume shoot to nearly 2.3 million shares traded & the stock dropped $0.90 or 5% in an hour. OK, the markets took a tumble yesterday all over, but this is unprescedented for TKC since February this year.

People may be getting nervous on emerging & developing markets & admittedly, we have seen increased volatility coming in in the last 20 days trading, however, Turkcell registers normal daily volumes of of circa 660k shares traded, yesterday we saw 2.273 million shares exchanging hands.

Looking historically at TKC from a technical perspective over 2009, whenever we have seen volatile activity as above, it has been a precursor to another leg up in the stock, as per the chart below.

TKC_12_month

On the basis that it has just been upgraded on a long term basis, it’s major shareholder is Sonera BV (Telia Sonera of Sweden) & it has just launched 3G along with a raft of new services, I’m a perma-bull on this stock. I spent quite a bit of time researching yesterday & was not able to come up with one single reason why TKC has sustained such a beatdown, I can only surmise that some speculation has been going on in Hedgistan & expect to see another brisk leg up. Correspondingly, yesterday I added 50% to my position at 17.01 & am quietly confident we will see $20 in quick time.

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Vodafone unveils handset strategy for 360 platform

Vodafone360Vodafone is now releasing two of its own handsets designed by Samsung with the new Vodafone 360 application pre-installed. Nokia will offer another four handsets with the application, and another 100 will be able to use the service at launch. Vodafone aims to make the download suitable for all operators and as many handsets and operating systems as possible.

The announcement from Vodafone (NYSE:VOD) brings to mind a number of similar services, such as Ovi from Nokia, MobileMe from Apple and indepedent providers such as Nimbuzz and Fring, not to mention the Rich Communications Suite currently in development by the GSMA. Vodafone 360 aims to distinguish itself in this field with its reach (315 million Vodafone susbcribers in 30 countries plus partner networks in 40 countries), the fact that 360 is also available to non-Vodafone mobile users, the range of the service (access to all possible communication and social networking applications, so no ‘walled garden’), and its open character (open to numerous handsets and operating systems), and, we can ussume, its user interface. This last issue is essential if the service is to be successful. Demonstrations are not yet available, but according to sources, Vodafone had 1,000 developers working on the service for months. Vodafone 360 has to offer access to all the contacts and content around the subscriber, hence the name ‘360’.

Vodafone has deployed its significant development power, based on the enormous scale of the company, to explicitly create a distinctive asset. Under the leadership of former Microsoft man Pieter Knook, Vodafone is looking to compete head on with other international giants, such as Nokia, Google, Apple and Microsoft. In this field, Vodafone is the only operator active, which raises the qeustion if Vodafone 360 can be a success. Ovi has so far disappointed, in a world where the user demands maximum freedom to choose. However, Vodafone has a clear advantage over competitors: the mobile operator has a billing relationship with its customers.

While it’s questionable whether the service will take off outside its own customer base, it should only bring benefits to Vodafone’s own subscribers. Vodafone will profit indirectly from this: satisfied customers, higher usage and lower churn. And there is also something to be earned directly, namely from that bit of sales from revenue-sharing deals or through placing advertisements among the content.

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Busy tones in Qatar, as Vodafone & QTel battle for hearts & minds

Vodafone QatarQatar‘s telecommunications sector is becoming increasingly competitive, both domestically and on the international stage.

The recently released Global Competitiveness Report 2009-10, prepared by the World Economic Forum (WEF), ranked Qatar as the most competitive economy in the Middle East and North Africa region, and 22nd overall out of the 133 countries assessed.

The country scored highly in the category of technological readiness, the ability of an economy to adopt existing technologies to enhance productivity. In particular, the WEF cited Qatar’s embrace of new communications technology as a factor that enhanced its competitiveness, saying, “The country has made great strides in harnessing the latest technologies, such as mobile telephony and broadband.”

Those great strides have seen Qatar ranked second in the world for per-capita mobile phone ownership, 37th for broadband internet subscriptions and 33rd for the total number of internet users.

While the willingness of Qataris to make use of the latest technological advances has helped to improve the country’s economic competitiveness at the international level, it is on the domestic stage where things are really heating up.

On March 1, a new era dawned, with Vodafone Qatar launching a limited mobile phone service, thus marking the end of Qtel‘s monopoly on the market. Full services covering around 99% of the country were launched in July.

Not surprisingly, Vodafone Qatar has experienced some teething problems, partly due to having to share some of Qtel’s infrastructure and in part as a result of the unexpectedly high levels of client pick up. In mid-September, Vodafone Qatar announced it passed the 100,000 subscriber mark. Though well ahead of the company’s own projections, and a good start towards its target of taking a 40 to 60% market share within 10 years, Vodafone Qatar still has a long way to go before it can truly rival Qtel, which has 1.9m subscribers on its books.

Despite having just a fraction of Qtel’s subscriber numbers, Vodafone has set out its stall, seeking to challenge the incumbent with different products and pricing packages. And it is the appeal of the new that is attracting at least some of Qtel’s existing customers to its rival, with the two companies basically providing similar services on mobile and internet platforms. Both companies have reduced costs for some mobile phone services and stepped up special offers, including cut-price internet downloads and cheap international calls.

One area that Qtel still retains an advantage in is the fixed-line segment. Though Vodafone is also supposed to provide fixed-line services, a launch date for such an operation has yet to be set, with the company saying in early September it had not as yet been issued the required licence by the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology.

Though Vodafone (NYSE:VOD) may have to wait before it can mount its challenge to Qtel’s landline monopoly, the company has racked up a few impressive achievements in the past few months. The entrant’s initial public offering, which was concluded in April, raised $930m, with some 82,000 individual Qatari investors and 273 institutional investors taking a stake in the firm.

While Qtel is responding to the challenge offered by Vodafone, its domestic operations are just part of a much bigger corporate profile, with the company active in 17 separate countries across the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, maintaining a subscriber base of around 52m. The company has declared its objective of becoming one of the world’s top-20 telecommunications firms by 2020, an aim it seems on track to achieve.

Despite having raised its debt levels in recent years to fund an ambitious acquisitions programme, Qtel has had little difficulty in rolling this debt over, despite the generally tight liquidity situation. In mid September, it renegotiated a loan of $2bn, arranging a forward start agreement on a revolving credit facility maturing in November, extending the credit by two years.

According to Qtel’s chief executive officer, Nasser Marafih, the company is focusing on consolidating three years’ worth of growth, though it would always keep watch for any opportunities that would augment its portfolio.

Qtel may be an international firm, but much of its recent expansion has yet to be translated into revenue streams. Till they do, Qtel will rely on its original core market to underpin its operations, though now it will have to contend with a competitive Vodafone on the other end of the line.

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AT&T eyes 25% stake in India’s BSNL as 3G comes to the fore

att-logo-orangeAccording to the Economic Times of India, domestic US telecom giant AT&T is in talks with state controlled Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) regarding placing an investment, that would see the company make a comeback in one of the fastest growing telecoms sectors. With mobile penetration advancing from 2% in 2005 to over 40% in 2009, still leaving plenty of room for growth.

AT&T (NYSE: T), which has been expanding its mobility business globally, quit the Indian mobile sector in 2005, selling its 33% stake in Idea Cellular following it’s merger with Cingular Wireless. It received around $250 million from the stake in Idea,that stake would now be valued at circa $3.5 billion. So a strategic mistake, that the New Jersey based company looks keen to repair. CEO Randall Stephenson spent much of 2008 in acquisition talks with Reliance, Idea and Aircel Cellular parent Maxis Communications, demonstrating a real desire to take a piece of the action.

BSNL has suffered from lackluster performance, as it’s monopoly has been slowly eroded over time, with new entrants carving up the market, especially in the mobile sector. The launch of 3G licences this year has seen heavyweight MNC telcos taking a greater stake in this huge growth market. Vodafone (UK) acquired Essar, Mobile TeleSystems (Russia) entered the market via Shyam Teleservices,  DoCoMo (Japan) has formed a joint venture with Tata Teleservices, whilst Telenor (Norway) has taken a passive route by acquiring shares in Unitech Wireless & SingTel (Singapore) has also invested heavily in Bharti Aircel, alongside Telia (Sweden) & BT (UK).

The Indian government reiterated plans to publicly list BSNL in July , although a firm time frame has not been committed to. Earlier that month, BSNL chairman Kuldeep Goyal said that the company was exploring a possible stake sale to a foreign firm to raise funds to help it compete better against its domestic rivals; however, he didn’t comment on how large the stake would be.

According to BSNL’s FY 2008 accounts, the value of the company is circa $17Bn. MTNL, the second of the telecom monopolies, which operates purely in Delhi & Mumbai, currently trades on the Bombay Stock Exchange  at Rs95 ($1.95) per share. BSNL would be expected to attain a much hirer premium, as it is the only current national carrier & market watchers have stated that post IP the company could be worth anything from $13Bn & $16.3Bn 65,000. Sources state that AT&T is interested in a 25% stake, so would need to buy in with $3Bn / $4Bn to make this work.

At present BSNL is the leader in all services in its license area, with over than 49 million mobile subscribers (17% market share), 35% fixed line subscribers (85% market share) & 2.5 million broadband subscribers.

I can see this coming off, as AT&T can offer extended network services & serious technical know how to BSNL, an area in which the company has lagged. AT&T India also operates a state of the art IP MPLS network across India that will also help the Indian company to expand it’s offerings into the burgeoning Enterprise market. With the Indian mobile market set to double by 2014, this would also give access to a potentially huge subscriber base of 100 million & dare I say it, a potential launch pad for iPhone.

For BSNL, this could be a great route to forestall the new & legacy players across the sub-continent, particularly in mobile & broadband, more importantly with infrastructure restrictions, LTE could play a defining role for any telecoms carrier in India.

Granted, this is all pure speculation at this point, however, if the rumoured talks firm up, I’ll be taking a long hard look at AT&T again.

Original post can be found at MyStockVoice.com

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