Posts Tagged ‘wireless’

Nokia gets thumbs up from China

china-mobile2Following on from the distribution of 3G licences earlier this year for China’s three mobile networks, China Mobile, China Telecom & China Unicom, along with the convoluted technology demands imposed by the regulator, signs are that Nokia will be sitting a little higher up the table at the tea party, as Chinese news portal Xinhua reports :

“China hopes Nokia will enhance cooperation with China’s information sector and play an active role in developing China’s TD-SCDMA industry, Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang said”

As we reported earlier this year, China looks to 3G networks to help stimulate economy, each of the operators is working on a different standard, China Telecom will work on the US standard CDMA 200, Unicom has gone down the W-CDMA route, whilst China Mobile (NYSE : CHL) has invested a veritable fortune in its home-grown standard TD-SCDMA.

From a political standpoint, it is pretty much a given that TD-SCDMA will not be allowed to fail, as the government is very much behind these moves. So what does this mean for equipment vendors ?

Basically, it has resulted in Western vendors like Alcatel-Lucent & Ericsson being marginalised when it comes to participation. Alcatel (NYSE : ALU) has managed to win business in 14 regions to partially satisfy China Unicoms requirements, whilst also signing $230 million worth of contracts with China Telecom.

“The drive for 3G (in China) is a very important stimulus for what I think is a very exciting market to come,” Ben Verwaayen, chief executive of Alcatel-Lucent, told reporters in Beijing yesterday. “If you look to the market and the economic crisis today, it is good to see that China is going to play a more prominent role than ever before.”

Ericsson (NYSE : ERIC) has stated that it has picked up 30% of China Unicoms 3G network requirements, leaving Chinese vendors Huawei & ZTE to fight over the spoils, with Huawei reportedly being the big winner.

So what about Nokia ?  Back in March, Nokia-Siemens Networks (NSN), a subsidiary of the Finnish mobile giant, announced the signing of framework agreements with both China Mobile and Unicom for up to US$1.1 billion in orders. NSN is one of the less recognised parts of Nokia’s business, however, it is definitely a division not to be ignored, Q1 2009 showed that NSN contributed  34% of group revenues.

Nokia has already provided major infrastructure deployments on China Mobile’s Phase II deployment of 3G network, on its testing rollout in Hainan province. Now with equipment currently being deployed across 28 major cities throughout China, Nokia Siemens Networks has provided the top performing city networks based on 3G TD-SCDMA commercial readiness, as laid down by the Chinese telecoms regulator.

“We are very confident of our 3G TD-SCDMA solution and feel proud to showcase its capabilities. Nokia Siemens Networks has provided us such tremendous on ground support, that our 2G and 3G TD-SCDMA networks are optimized and ready to handle high throughput and access rates demanded by cutting edge applications,” said Zhou Chengyang, President of Hainan MCC. “We have laid a solid foundation to launch commercial services in the Hainan province and are looking forward to working closely with Nokia Siemens Networks towards large scale and high quality TD-SCDMA services.”

So the expectation is that this suuccess will bleed over into Nokia’s main revenue driver, handsets. China Mobile is now becoming more of a commodity player with regards to handsets, as it is now looking to more rural areas for subscriber growth. My expectation is that Nokia will play a major part in this area, as discussed in a previous post, Nokia has a very strong back-catalogue of handsets to pick from & also enjoys higher margins in the low end sector than its competitors.

Having picked up on the Nokia ADR (NYSE : NOK) earlier this month & also enjoyed the $0.52 dividend yesterday, I had planned to drop 50% of my holding to place elsewhere. With this mornings news on official support for Nokia, I will now be holding a little longer term, looking for a target of $18.50 towards the end of the year.

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China Mobile starts to push 3G strategy & partnerships, good news for Dell ?

china-mobile1Following on from the 3G licence distribution that we reported on MyStockVoice late last year, China looks to 3G market to stimulate economy, market leader China Mobile has unveiled a number of new partnerships & device releases that show the direction it is taking in the medium term. After the on-off discussions with Apple regarding the iPhone, the wireless carrier seems to be pitching heavily into the PC hardware vendors, as well as choosing suppliers to expand its TD-SCDMA network to cover rural mainland China.

China Tech News reports this morning that China Mobile (NYSE : CHL) has selected six PC makers, including Lenovo Group, Founder Technology, Tongfang, Haier, HP, & Dell, as its 3G netbook partners. What is more interesting is the strategy behind this, following Western mobile operators who have been pushing mobile broadband dongles since 2007, China Mobile will offer subsidies to users who buy its 3G netbooks. Consumers will be able to enter  the serial numbers of the device and the numbers of the built-in TD-SCDMA module of the netbook, with their mobile phones to activate the 3G services.

Dell (Nasdaq : DELL) have already announced their first joint hardware offering with CHL, the Inspiron Mini 10. Dell is obviously keen to tap into the huge potential of the Chinese mobile internet market, IDC has forecasted that the market will explode by 276% in 2009 alone. This carries on from existing deals Dell has struck with Vodafone, AT&T, Starhub & Maxis.

“Dell actively listens to its customers to provide highly stylized, personalized products with unparalleled connectivity. China Mobile’s fast mobile broadband 3G service perfectly complements the wireless and entertainment capabilities of the sleek, portable Inspiron Mini 10.” — Michael Yang, vice president & general manager of Greater China Consumer

“China Mobile is China’s only operator solely focusing on mobile communications with the world’s no. 1 network and the largest customer base. We are happy to add Dell’s Inspiron Mini 10 to our growing number of 3G mobile broadband devices, providing travelers and social networkers with easy and convenient wireless Internet access.” -– He Zhili, Marketing Director of CMCC

Now with the Chines propensity to build homegrown standards, TD-SCDMA being a prime example, China Mobile looks as though it is ready to turn its back upon the traditional handset vendors. Rumours abound that it is looking into releasing its own mobile operating system, Open Mobile System (OMS), which is based on Google’s Android, however utilising operator specific variations at all layers. In a final snub to Apple, CHL is also rumoured to be building it’s own app store to support OMS. As Dell has not made made any significant inroads, to date, into the Western mobile markets, China Mobile could provide a much needed distribution channel. There are positives for both parties, Dell is new to the handset game & so would be expected to be flexible in how it develops handsets, China Mobile has a distribution base of more than 470 million subscribers, a very juicy number.

Market research firm Interfax has reported that Lenovo has already been tapped up to partner with China Mobile on an Android based handset :

“We will collaborate with China Mobile to launch an Android phone, and we will cooperate closely over research and development relating to the open source platform,” Wang Yan, a brand manager at Lenovo Mobile, said.

Meanwhile, China Mobile is forging ahead with its network rollouts, AsiaInfo Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq : ASIA) has announced that it has been selected to provide networking equipment with 11 China Mobile subsidiaries, to support China Mobile’s Phase II TD-SCDMA rollout. The new system will support wireless broadband service, data card service, mobile video and other 3G-related services. In 2007, AsiaInfo provided BOSS software for Phase I of China Mobile’s TD-SCDMA network construction, thus becoming the first vendor to develop billing and customer relationship management software to accommodate China’s 3G rollout.

“Pushing forward the construction and operation of the TD-SCDMA network is one of China Mobile’s key goals for 2009, and our longstanding relationship with the carrier brings us a number of opportunities in the 3G realm,” said Steve Zhang, AsiaInfo’s president and chief executive officer.

Spending on wireless infrastructure equipment in China is expected to rise to $6.2Bn in 2009, up 13.2% from $5.5Bn in 2008. In contrast, global carrier spending on wireless infrastructure gear in 2009 is expected to decline by 3.5%to $39.7Bn, down from $41.1Bn in 2008. It is clear that a lot of companies are banking on 3G in China & China Mobile’s dominance of the sector to see them through to 2010, when the wireless markets will look to expand in resppnse to consumer demand. Dell’s courting of China Mobile could be a big pay day for the computer manufacturer, as traditional routes to market dry up on declining retail spending in Western markets, China could provide a much needed fillip. Personally I am not ready to move on Dell just yet, however, it will be interesting to see what falls out of this relationship & I will be monitoring closely.

Consolidation hits Rainbow Nations telecom sector

800px-flag_of_south_africasvg1Even though merger and acquisitions (M&A) in South Africa were down at least 50% in deal value last year compared with other emerging markets, the telecom sector has seen much activity in the last year, which has also spilled into 2009. A veritable wave of consolidation & a drive towards convergence seems to be the way forward for major players such as Vodacom, Telkom SA & MTN Group.

The largest deal in South Africa was Vodafones (NYSE – VOD) acquisition of a further 15% of Vodacom for R22,5bn ($2.3Bn), bringing control along with atotal holding of 65%, Telkom as part of the deal will divest the remaining 35% to shareholders. Analysts had feared that Vodafone had paid a premium for this stake, however value can be seen in the continued push for consolidation & a genuine effort to move towards converged services. In late December it was announced that the mobile carrier had acquired African network and satellite services firm Gateway Communications for $700 million. The Gateway transaction includes Gateway’s core carrier and business network units, which provide satellite, business and interconnect services to African and multinational companies in 40 countries, but not its broadcasting division.

“As mobile phone penetration levels increase in South Africa, we are actively repositioning Vodacom as a total communications provider with new avenues for growth,” Pieter Uys, Vodacom’s chief executive said in a statement.

Vodacom Group will be listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in 2009, once the Vodafone deal to buy an additional stake is completed. As part of the deal, the Vodacom identity will remain visible on the African continent and it will be the exclusive investment vehicle through which Vodafone will make acquisitions in sub-Saharan Africa, excluding Ghana and Kenya where the group has existing presence via stakes in Ghana Telecom & Safaricom respectively.

Meanwhile, pan-African player MTN Group have not been caught napping, having recently snapped up Verizon’s African businesses, which it is buying to add muscle to its data division. MTN which is Africa’s biggest cell phone operator by subscribers, is buying a 69.38 percent stake in Verizon South Africa, a unit of U.S.-based Verizon Communciations, for an undisclosed amount to help it better compete with rivals such as Dimension Data & Internet Solutions in the corporate communications market.Verizon Business South Africa provides telecommunications to corporate customers in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Kenya. Also, in response to Vodafone’s move on Vodacom, MTN has bolstered its SA operations by acquiring the remaining 59% of iTalk Cellular that it did not own, iTalk is an MTN exclusive distributor, with over 100 retail outlets across South Africa

“These acquisitions are in line with our strategic vision and will add value to our business,” said MTN SA MD, Tim Lowry. “Through these deals we are enhancing our value proposition, building capacity and broadening our reach to enhance our product and service offerings to customers and clients. The i-Talk Cellular acquisition will strengthen our distribution across South Africa,” Lowry said.

In a counterpose, fixed line operator Telkom (NYSE – TKG) has begun the roll out of a national  3G W-CDMA network. Telkom will initially focus on providing fixed voice and fixed-mobile data and, in the near future, nomadic voice services. This is in part a play to enter into competition with the two mobile players, but also is a side effect of the disastrous state of SA’s copper based telecoms infrastructure. Telkom has also swung into action by spending $63m to acquire MWeb Africa and 75% of MWeb Namibia to help it become a pan-African voice and data supplier.

 

“Our revenues have been under significant pressure from declining voice services due to competition and further impacted by the effects of copper cable theft. Three years ago, we announced we are investing in next generation network (NGN) based technologies to provide new generation customer services and products. It isn’t about a single network but using various NGN technologies, such as W-CDMA, to provide customer-focused services”, explains September.

Network upstart NeoTel has been making decisive inroads into Telkom’s fixed line business since its launch in 2006, Tata Communications backed NeoTel provides converged services in the fields of basic voice and data services, high-speed internet (as well as true broadband access), virtual private networks, network management and hosting services for both corporate & retail customers. One area where it has been very succesful is in providing alternative backbone services to Telkom via its wholly owned transit network. Recently it has announced an agreement with MTN to co-build a national fiber optic network, which will break the stranglehold that Telkom has had on the sector.

Last but not least, Kuwaiti based Zain (formerly MTC) is promising major pan-African expansion with a short-term goal of launching in at least three more countries this year. Since few countries are issuing fresh licences, that will mostly come by acquiring smaller players. Zain Africa’s CEO, Chris Gabriel, predicts that consolidation among Africa’s 100-plus cellular networks will be so intense that only three to five will survive. Smaller players will come under pressure to be absorbed by those behemoths if they offer telecoms or technology-related services.

With all this activity, the South African telco sector is contracting with regards to opportunity & growth, which will, in my opinion spur Vodaone/Vodacom, MTN, Telkom & Zain along with France Telecom/Orange, Orascom & Oger into a set piece which is remiscent of Thomas Pakenhams excellent book Scramble for Africa. Interesting times indeed.