Thursday, March 30, 2006

Profit warning coming at France Telecom?

According to La Tribune Orange France is underperforming, which may induce France Telecom to (once again) lower its revenue forecast.

Right now, guidance is for 7% (2% organic) and the market is looking for 6.7%. So there is some downside here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wednesday Telecom, Internet and Media Digests

The past week saw numerous announcements. Here are the most important ones - from the investor point of view. Discover the many links to primary source material and commentators. Each overview is divided into company specific news and trends by segment.

Telecoms: to name a few:
  • Regulatory actions in Canada (foreign ownership), the US (the new COPE Act) and the EU (international roaming).
  • Standards news on Bluetooth/UWB, WiMAX (certifications) and MoCA (in-home wiring).
  • LBS search services from Skyhook and Sprint.
  • Innovative VoIP from Lycos, Jajah and Interoute.
  • Of particular interest: xMax (handsets) and Skype (sued by StreamCast).
Internet: mainly Google and Yahoo!:
  • New video search from Podzinger.
  • Ad insertions into SMS from MIVA.
Media: cable and video:
  • Company news mainly from cablecos (US, France, Israel).
  • Most of my favorite video companies in the news: Sling Media, Akimbo, and VideoEgg.

Monday, March 27, 2006

No bid for NTL, but maybe for BT

Informed sources tell me there is no bid looming for NTL right now. There could be penalties for unwinding existing financing and the Virgin Mobile takeover is complicating the matter, as it is too far advanced to undo.

Earlier rumours about private equity approaching BT were denied by the latter. However, the same sources tell me that BT has now rejected a plan according to which the company would be split along the current divisional lines (Global, Retail, Wholesale). That leaves the possibilty of an hostile bid (not likely, I believe) or a full takeover bid (the size of which now seems less and less relevant).

Thursday, March 23, 2006

KT Corp: example to the world

The Korea Herald has an article on KT Corp, centering on its VDSL, FTTH and IPTV deployments (or plans).

A new market for PayPal: mobile payments

PayPal (eBay) will launch PayPal Mobile in a couple of weeks. A text message (SMS) or a voice call (IVR) can be used to transfer funds. It can be used for person-to-person payments or for buying stuff. The 'text to buy' feature would allow magazine readers to buy an item using a code in an ad. The item will be shipped to the address tied to the phone, which must be registered at PayPal.

Looks really easy and it must be a potentially fairly big market.

MIVA extends sponsored search to SMS

MIVA will provide its advertisers with the possibility of inserting ads into SMS messages. These text messages are sent by partner The Number (the UK operator osf the famous 118 118 directory service) to its clients, in response to enquiries. The service is called TXT//AD.
A trial among 500 users showed that the majority was interested in the possibilities this delivers to end users.

I'm not sure how large this market is, but it is interesting to see how the web version (organic search results augmented with sponsored results) is extended into an entirely different environment. Also, conversion and ROI will be high and there is no chance for click fraud.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wednesday Telecoms, Media and Internet Digests

Highlights from last week in:

Lots of M&A activity, regulatory actions.
News from Vyyo (cable broadband) and Agilent (cellular mesh networking).
AT&T and Embarq/Sprint jumping on the muniwifi bandwagon.
WiMAX and IPTV developments.

Internet: and Google into financial services.
Web 2.0 is alive again.
The FCC, AT&T, Qwest and Disney on Net Neutrality.

Open access news: in STM publishing, music distribution (iTunes) and TV sports programming.
Please make up your mind: do you want cellphones in movietheaters (for interactive games) or not (would you please shut up).
Video distribution: to PCs, the TV or to portable players.

Brill Academic Publishers: the case for Google Book

Brill, the tiny B2B publisher form Leiden (the Netherlands), last night published its 2005 results.
Controversy or not, Brill states that its working with Google (on Book Search) 'seems to have a positive effect on sales, also for backlog titels'.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Google sued by

Here's a lawsuit that Google does not have to worry about. If PageRank ignores you - tough luck.

Google sometimes changes its algorithms to turn the heat up on search engine optimisation. Moreover, this is an unregulated market. Freedom of algorithms!

Belarus: case for net neutrality

Belarus can be viewed as a case for net neutrality.

Just last week president Lukashenko banned home internet access. And yesterday he was re-elected by 83% of the people, or so he says.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Wednesday Telecom, Internet and Media Digests

The past week in:

Telecoms: a small slection:
Is a big shift in strategy looming at Vodafone?
Sprint's 4G plans are on track.
Several smaller PTT's are for sale.
Munibroadband news from Ireland, Denmark and the US.

Internet: highlights:
Windows Live Search new beta and Accoona's new push.
Google's click fraud settlement and Writely purchase.

Sale of 3 companies put on the block (Univision, Knight Ridder, VNU) is nearing the end.

And much much more. Check out both demand (private equity) and supply side of the M&A boom.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Will net neutrality split operators and internet companies?

The net neutrality issue could take two interesting twists:

A. Cable companies could support net neutrality. I believe they have largely been silent on the issue (except Shaw). That could spur sympathy from users and internet companies.

B. The Bells grant Yahoo! (and MSN), their partner(s) in DSL, unlimited and free access. That could split the internet companies, who so far seem to be pretty unanimous in their support of net neutrality.

VNU: roadshow ends tomorrow

Will VNU be able to convince investors to tender their shares to the private equity bid? If not, there is considerable downside risk to the share price and VNU itself may turn out to be another IMS. IMS trended down when investors appeared not to buy the VNU takeover story.

The VNU roadshow ends tomorrow (in the US). Let's focus on the share price, relative to the cash bid of 28.75 EUR/share. Right now, VNU is at 27.25.

Vodafone: going for synergies or convergence?

With all the management changes and selling of assets (Japan, US, Australia), the question is: what's next for Vodafone?

It seems the choice is:
  • Try to finally extract those synergies and, at least for the time being, continue on the wireless path, aiming for mobile substitution. Perhaps this takes new management once again, after the Christmas quarter disappointed and left Vodafone behind most competitors.
  • Give up completely and sell all your assets. There will be plenty of interest. It could be good for shareholders, but who would ever seriously contemplate this option?
  • Or: come on PE guys, let's see those GBP 100m. The balance sheet is clean, there's lots to sell, management can be replaced and the stock is dirt cheap.
  • Fight mobile substitution with fixed/mobile convergence. A UMTS/HSDPA box could be an interim strategy, but not for the long run. You need a fixed line partner. A reseller with some reach (Tele2, debitel), cable companies (Liberty Global, Ono/Auna, Casema), or those private equity guys that by now have scrambled together a rich portfolio of smaller PTTs and altnets throughout Europe. And of course, there are other options: BT in the UK (current partner in BT Fusion), Arcor in Germany (subsidiary), Neuf Cegetel in France (sister company), FastWeb in Italy (for sale).
  • Deploy WiMAX.

Until there is some clarity, this is a high-risk stock.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Tom Glocer (Reuters) defends Web 2.0

In this Financial Times article, Reuters CEO Tom Glocer highlights the importance of Web 2.0.
"Old media – and I now would include the first wave of online publishing –
have a choice: integrate the new world or risk becoming less relevant. Our
industry must not fall into the old protectionist strategies that defined the
first phase of the internet. The internet was not invented just to show a
replica of yesterday’s newspaper with a few banner advertisements. We cannot be
the choke-hold, blocking the new creators in a bid to protect our legacy

ip.access scores funding

Picocell vendor ip.access attracted GBP 8.5m funding from Scottish Equity Partners, Intel Capital and Rothschild & Cie Gestion.
Ip.access manufactures nano or pico base stations for in-building coverage of GSM-networks. This new capital will be used for developing a 3G AP.

The really interesting part is the final sentence of the press release: "It will also help us expand our GSM market, addressing new opportunities, such as those presented by the forthcoming auction of 1800MHz spectrum in the UK."
This auction is bound to bring in new players in the UK, posing a similar threat as WiFi does to current MNOs.

Accoona: refine your search results

Accoona announced its AI heavy search engine last week. I wrote about it before (in Dutch), at its Chinese launch. So far it covers news and business (the web to follow in 1-2 months). It offers two fundamental innovations:
  • Refined search results by choosing a category.
  • New ads model, where advertisers bid for a lead, which the user has indicated interest in.

The New York Times carries an article, which is available here too.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Wednesday Telecom, Internet and Media Digests

The past week in:


Lots of M&A (talk).
Also: mobile TV, a WiMAX card from Intel and muniwifi.


Finally a bill to support net neutrality.



P2P is gaining momentum as a distribution 'platform'. Check out Cringely
HDTV is coming to Europe.

And much much more!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sling and Orb: questions raised over (wireless) broadband

Sling Media picked up interest from Business Week, which also describes Orb Networks. Both have technology for place-shifting TV viewing to any broadband connected device. Sling uses hardware, the Slingbox, which costs, Orb is a free software product.

Interestingly, Orb has trials with wireless carriers in Europe for smartphone/PDA use, while Sling Mobile (a client up for release this month) has a hard time finding a trial partner in the US, according to different reports.
(Of course, the US is ahead in unicast TV, which it wishes to protect. Europe is anxious to fill its expensive 3G networks.)

On the one hand, Sling and Orb would drive takeup of high-end devices and broadband (3G). But: this is another piece of evidence supporting the stupid network vision; a broadband connection as an alternative to (expensive) dedicated multimedia networks.

Finally, would net neutrality safeguard Sling and Orb against blocking plans from broadband wireless operators?

Sharing: the world is my friend

Reuters' Sue Zeidler reports La la Media opens its doors. This is a CD trading site. Users pay La la Media $1 for facilitating + $.5 for shipping, of which 20% goes to the recording artists.
The company got $9m funding from Bain and Ignition.

This looks like a lot of things. Netflix (DVD rental), Peerflix (DVD trading), and even FON, the WiFi sharing initiative. It's all about sharing. As long as you can legally classify people as your friend, fair use covers many things.
Also, see Cringely's latest columns on P2P for media distribution.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Wednesday Telecoms, Internet and Media Digests

The past week in:

Lots of developments in WiMAX and IPTV. Munifiber plans stand out

How can anyone not be scared by clickbots? Also, the net neutrality debate is brought to Europe.

Check out the content distribution developments.

TIM diary for March 2006

A lot going on in March related to video. WiMAX too. Check out my diary.