Sunday, April 30, 2006

The TIM Diary for May

KPN to introduce 'Slim' (prepaid VoIP; 1)
HanseNet (TI) to launch IPTV in Hamburg
Philips to launch VoIP321 handset for Skype in Europe

Swisscom: House of Rep's on planned state sale (62%) (10)
Australia to decide on Telstra sale (52%)

Wireless auction US for in-flight (10)
Deadline for bids for Egyptian third mobile license (4)
Telecom New Zealand to pick buyer for AAPT (5)
RfP deadline for Houston muniwifi (16)

SFR (Vivendi/Vodafone) analyst meeting, Paris (3)
Conferences: VON Europe, Stockholm (15-18), WiMAX World Europe, Vienna (22-24)
Earnings: Verizon (2), DT (11), BT (18), Vodafone (30)

Google: hearing click fraud suit from AIT

eBay analyst Day, San Jose (4) and London (9)
Yahoo! analyst day, San Francisco (17)
Conferences: Web 2.0, Toronto (15-16), Goldman Sachs Internet (25)

Sky to launch HDTV in UK
VNU bid period ends
Liberty Media tracker spin-offs (Interactive, Capital)
WPP deadline ends for period of bid silence for Aegis (25)
Ad accounts: The Gap to award ($100-125m), Miller Brewing to award ($600m)

Brill analyst meeting, Amsterdam (4)
Earnings: Time Warner (3), Walt Disney (9), Wolters Kluwer (10), RCN (10), Vivendi (17)
Conferences: 'OnHollywood 2006', Hollywood (2-4)
Movie releases: 'Mission Impossible 3' (Paramount, 5), 'Poseidon' (Warner, 12), 'The Da Vinci Code' (Sony, 19), 'Over the hedge' (DreamWorks Animation, 19), 'X-Men 3' (Fox), 'Cars' (pre-release, New York, 26)
DVD relaeses: 'Rumor has it' (Warner, 9)
HD-DVD releases: first hybrid from Warner (9)
Blu-ray releases: 8 Sony releases and 10 from Lionsgate (23)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Wednesday Telecoms, Internet and Media Digests




Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Yesterday I had a meeting with Jan Wegstapel, CFO of Dutch local/regional newspaper company Wegener in Apeldoorn. Here are my notes (in Dutch).

There is some new stuff to the investment story:
  • Mecom bought the Limburg newspapers of Telegraaf and is working on another acquisition. Wegener however confirms it is not in talks with Mecom, which says it is in advanced talks. That seems contrary to what investors currently speculate upon.
  • For growth, Wegener has now turned attention abroad (the local Internet market is perceived to be small in revenue terms; the market for regional radio and TV is both small and controlled by state funded companies; the market for free dailies is controlled by Metro and Telegraaf; the magazine market is controlled by Sanoma). Germany and Scandinavia is where Wegener could be interested.
  • A merger with NDC (#4 in the country, with newspapers in the northern part) is not ruled out. However, the foundations controlling NDC up until now have said they want NDC to remain independent.
  • The Direct Marketing division (100%), housing site Funda (30%) and alternative mail company Selekt Mail (48%) could all be sold, but a deal is far off. Each first has to attain a comfortable level of profitability, in order to demand a fair price.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

EC on OA: Hot summer for Reed Elsevier

Economists from two European universities have produced a report for the EC on Open Access to scientific research. The EC calls for consultation until June 1.

The report calls for OA-archiving (self-archiving) and recommends experimenting with OA publishing.

Obviously, this could be the start of a new round of hammering the Reed Elsevier stock. It hasn't performed very well, over the past few years, even if OA wasn't its largest threat. The question is: when wil it be?
So far, growth at the STM division is robust and allowing a limited form of OA-archiving could extend the current monopoly-like business model well into the future. From the shareholder point of view however, it's unfortunate that Reed Elsevier stands out as the most exposed to the OA movement.

At this point, it remains to be seen how far the EC is willing to go. Keep posted.

Wednesday Telecoms, Internet and Media Digests

This past week - click through to comprehensive overviews packed with links to source material and commentary. Here's a selection.

Telecoms: a wide range of topics
  • Little company news (eircom, Vodafone/Verizon, Level 3).
  • California moving ahead with BPL.
  • Wifi efforts from some US cities and Yahoo!.
  • More MVNOs coming in the US market.
  • Vodafone plans TV launch using KPN's DVB-H infrastructure provider Digitenne.
  • IPTV news from a.o. KPN (launch date) and Swisscom (tariff lowering)

Internet: the interesting news was in the search arena

  • a patent from Google
  • new vertical from MSN
  • a click fraud report from Click Forensics

Media: focus on company news

  • Time Warner may sell parts of AOL Europe.
  • TiVo wins against EchoStar and extends DirecTV contract.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

California to support BPL

The California PUC will propose to allow utilities to set up BPL companies and allow them free access to their networks.

Obviously, there are technology and interference issues around BPL, but the stronger the incentive from governments and the more attractive the broadband markt (low penetration in the US, falling gear prices, nifty new products from Motorola), the better BPL could compete with DSL and cable. The free access part is challenging however. Does that mean third party providers would have access? I suppose not, so this could indeed create a three player market (telco, MSO, utility).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wednesday Telecom, Internet and Media Digests

The week in review: another exciting one. I hope I haven't missed anything big. Click through and see all the links to source material and comments.

  • PTTs are still not all 100% government independent: look at Colombia, Cameroon, Switzerland, Australia. In the Netherlands the job is almost done.
  • In the wireless space: thye new Vodafone structure, which may lead to another round of sell-offs (like stakes in Proximus and Swisscom Mobile), to be followed by acquisitions? What about Arcor - is it still up for sale?
  • In the Netherlands, Orange has 3 years to become profitable. If not, what will happen? And what about Wanadoo NL?
  • The CTIA conference led to a bunch of cable press releases. Of special interest are developments around IP and IMS (PacketCable 2.0) and bandwidth (DOCSIS 2.0, 3.0), including dynamic bandwidth allocation (Camiant, Caspian).
  • In muniwifi we saw Google and EarthLink team up in San Francisco. That could lead to much stronger tie. How about a takeover? (Both companies report Q1 earnings on April 2o.)
  • Finally, lots around MVNOs, WiFi, WIMAX, VoIP (including the Skype acquisition of Camino for better quality), IPTV (including service for businesses), dual mode handsets and double/triple/quad plays (most notably the 'free' offer from Carphone Warehouse).


  • As usual, plenty of news around Google (including buying the algorithm for enhanced contextual ads (AdSense), using 'instant answers').
  • Blogs to the mainstream!
  • How about this: offline search from Webaroo and click fraud without clicks!
  • ABC on demand, as well as lots of other video on the net.
  • Print consolidating.
  • Spectacular compression efforts from Euclid.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Weather Investments: another driver of consolidation

Today in the Financial Times, Naguib Sawiris of Weather Investments (Wind, Orascom, Hutchison Telecom) explains his acquisition strategy. It should take shape 1-3 years after his planned IPO of Weather and it focuses on France, Spain, Greece, Portugal and the Netherlands.

I'm not sure what these markets have in common, but it could be either scope for consolidation or, quite to the contrary, scope for broadband growth.

So now we have these consolidators:
  • The large PTTs: DT, FT, Telefonica, and possibly TI.
  • Venture capitalists and private equity groups, that have amassed a big portfolio of assets (Apax, Carlyle, Providence).
  • Other pan-European groups: Liberty Global (UPC), Tele2 and maybe Vodafone (new strategy: convergence).
  • And Weather?

Remains the question: what is Apax' (and the others') exit strategy? Will they IPO a large, pan-European converged telco at some point in the future?

Orange Netherlands on the block? - What about Wanadoo?

Orange in the Netherlands has 3 years to become profitable - in other words: it is put up for sale. The company hints at a possible tie-up with UPC.

Some questions and conclusions:
  • Obviously, this would be much like NTL/Virgin in the UK. Also, the upcoming cooperation of Comcast et al with Sprint Nextel comes to mind. More broadly speaking: re-absorption of mobile assets into PTTs (France Telecom/Orange, TI/TIM, Telefonica/TEM, AT&T/Cingular, etc.), or even the IPOs-that-never-happened of KPN Mobile, T-Mobile, etc.
  • Who else could be a buyer, should FT actually start an auction process for Orange NL? Obviously, T-Mobile and Vodafone are candidates (KPN already controls more than 50% of the market after buying Telfort). Telefonica could want to be a newcomer. Another would be Tele2/Versatel or Scarlet or Belgacom.
  • Where does this leave Wanadoo, busy unbundling the KPN network? By the way, what will happen to Easynet NL and BBned?
  • Should FT sell Orange NL (and Wanadoo NL), its international focus is reduced to just 4 countries: France, UK, Spain, Poland. Could it be a step toward focus on large countries? In that case, look out for deals in Germany (E-Plus, Arcor) and Italy (Wind, FastWeb).
  • Would FT feel sorry for selling UPC-competitor Casema? FT bought it in 1997 for EUR 410m and sold in December 2002 to Providence/Carlyle for EUR 700m.
  • Liberty Media dropped out of the Casema auction in 2002, because the regulator was opposed to a deal (Liberty controlled UPC, now through Liberty Global). How would the NMa feel about cable consolidation now? Would it follow the UK model (NTL + Telewest) or the US model (little space for Comcast to grow by acquisition).
  • Will UPC/Liberty Global follow the News/Sky strategy, and possibly the new Vodafone strategy, aimed more at convergence (Sky + Easynet)? Obviously, UPC already bought an Austrian BB operator, but it hasn't ventured into the mobile/quad play arena yet (except as an MVNO). Perhaps a pan-European mobile asset would be more attractive to UPC: Vodafone, Tele2.

Friday, April 07, 2006

KPN aggressively lowers prepaid tariffs

Check out this page of new KPN Mobiel prepaid SIM-only tariffs in the Netherlands. The cheapest option now is 6 c/min, from 15!

KPN is clearly betting on its financial strength to gain subscribers and market share. Also, I suppose they will outbid just about any offer for an ISP that is put up for sale to grow in the broadband market as well.
Add to that some marketing power, and you get an incumbent buying its way back to monopoly status.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Amazon, eBay, Yahoo! and Google converging

No matter how much they deny it, the big internet companies are increasingly entering each other's territory.

Originally, the big four had their own:
  • Amazon: (books) retailer
  • eBay: auctions (and retail)
  • Google: search engine and paid search
  • Yahoo!: portal, with search engine and paid search, as well as email and IM

We've seen quite some convergence so far:

  • Amazon: search (A9), content (movies, music downloads)
  • eBay: payments, VoIP, mobile payments, listings (through Craigslist)
  • Google: email, IM and VoIP, listings and classifieds (Google Base), payments, content (movies, music), comparison shopping (Froogle), WiFi, Office (Writely), portal (Finance), 5% stake in AOL
  • Yahoo!: comparison shopping, auctions, VoIP
Among the latest was eBay's efforts in China to set up an online store for an electronics retailer, Paradise Electronics Retail. That could easily have been a commission to

What next?
  • Look out for Amazon, with all their technology hires last year.
  • EBay remains focussed on trading/retailing, enhanced by payments and communications. At the same time, this makes them vulnerable.
  • Google is the most expansive of all, but it remains to be seen how well it can compete in new territories. So far, there is an overload of beta-products.
  • Yahoo! arguably has most to lose because of lack of focus and lack of original content. How hard is it to aggregate third party content? Google could add many verticals, after Google Finance.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Wednesday Telecoms, Internet and Media Digests

The past week was especially noteworthy for telecoms stocks. Click through, to find a plethora of links to source material and comments.

Telecoms: too much really
  • Rumours on a handful of PTTs.
  • Auctions proceeding on PTTs of Colombia, Malta and Tunesia; on wireless operators; on spectrum of diverse nature.
  • KPN is buying into a regional fiber network, and keeps acquiring ISPs. Where is it heading? Can it be stopped by the regulator, or could it buy its way back to monopoly status?
  • DOCSIS 3.0 in Singapore.
  • Muni networks: WiFi in Toronto etcc, WiMAX in Rhode Island. Also, many WiMAX deployments being rolled out.
  • Some innovative VoIP solutions. Skype is loosing its edge.
  • IPTV keeps rollin'.

Internet: mainly company news

  • New services at Google and eBay.

Media: all about video

  • Smart deals from Orb and Akimbo, teaming up with hardware guys. (Even if next-gen DVD hardware is being belayed.)
  • Hollywood finally into downloads (not too late?).

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Low demand or stupid network: a single network is enough

AP, AOL and Pew conducted a survey among 1503 US adults on cell phone habits and usage. Among the results:
  • dislikes for new services: take pictures 53%, play MP3s 74%, record video clips 74%, play games 66%, use the internet 70%, SMS 52%, IM 81%, email 68%, watch TV 84%, search 69%
  • 77% have fixed line, 55% not likely to drop fixed line
  • 74% have second cell phone, 17% have 3 cell phones, 9% have 4 phones
This is pretty much in line with Enders Analysis' report on mobile video downloads. (The outfit expects the market to actually shrink, as mobile broadcast TV and PC downloads expand.) The quote a BMRB survey, that pointed to little interest in 3G services:
  • 53% not at all interested in services such as video calling, watching video clips, download music (7% have a capable handset and 16% very or quite interested)
  • 59% not interested at all in watching TV (26% is extremely/very/quite interested)

Also, a recent KPGM survey showed that 40% was not willing to pay extra for multimedia services.

Now, in 3G operators chose to each have their own network - unfortunately, one may now remark. But at this point operators can still make a sound decision when it comes to mobile video/TV, which requires a new network. Of course, there are proponents for each technology (Alcatel, Qualcomm, IPWireless, Nokia), but one can only hope that carriers opt for a wholesale model, with just one network operator and existing mobile operators as service providers.

This actually is a model that would work in other areas too:

  • The stupid network: think of the Amsterdam Citynet (FTTH), that has BBned (Telecom Italia: is it or is it not up for sale?) as network operator and invites anyone to be in charge of services.
  • Low demand (rural): the new WiMAX operator in Canada, Inukshuk Wireless, is a wholesaler, with Bell Canada and Rogers Communications as service providers (even if Inukshuk is jointly owned by Bell Canada and Rogers).

PS: I recall surveys from BouygTel, SFR, Telefonica Moviles, BT/Virgin (the wholesaler/service provider model) and Arqiva/O2 (same model, different technology). Each claimed success, high demand and willingness to pay. However, that is not quite fair - check out Swanni's comment on claims fromUniversal Pictures about people watching movies on their PC:

"So if the majority of that small audience is watching video iTunes on their
PCs, that's meaningless. It doesn't represent the majority of the TV audience,
or even a small segment."

Monday, April 03, 2006

How much protection do PTTs deserve?

The Canadian Telecommunications Policy Review Panel calls for deregulation. "There should be a presumption against regulation - the opposite of Canada's current approach." Of course this is interesting in the net neutrality debate, and in the France versus US/Germany approach to broadband.

"The report identifies three particularly important trends: the shift to Internet Protocol (IP) based networks, open network architectures, and convergence of industries. The shift to IP decreases costs, removes barriers to entry, and allows carriers to offer voice, data, television and internet on one platform. Associated with the shift to IP is the opening of network architectures, resulting in a decoupling of
services and applications from the underlying networks. These trends in turn
promote a four-way convergence of industries: traditional telecom, entertainment
and content, consumer electronics, and computing and software."

It reads a lot like Martin Geddes was involved, comparing the report to his views as expressed in this article on UMA at

So, the question is: is the situation bad enough as it is, with Google, Skype et al entering the communications market? If so, PTT's need a little protection from LLU, because cable and internet companies will shrink their business rapidly. This view favors the US/German model.
On the other hand if you believe that the decline is steady but slow, it takes the French model to shrink PTT's, stimulate competition etc.

Finally, net neutrality. Combining the US/German model with no rules on net neutrality, gives PTT's too much of an upperhand (unless you believe in the forces of the cable/telco duopoly, which is impossible in most countries, except for the US, the Netherlands, Belgium and perhaps a few more, like Switzerland).

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The TIM Diary for April

DoCoMo launches Fuji TV (1)
Industry briefing Singapore for RfP for next-gen national BB network (6)
Colombia Telecom auction of 50% + 1 share (7)
KPN AGM (11) and introduction of IPTV
AOL launches AOL Broadband (12)
Telecom Italia AGM (12) and launches ADSL2+ (17)
Tender for third mobile license Egypt (17)
Sprint Nextel AGM (18) and Q1 (26)
BellSouth Q1 (20)
AT&T Q1 (25)
TDC AGM (26)
No precise date:
EC draft regulation for international roaming
San Francisco picks winner for muniwifi network
Pakistan intros MNP
F2C: Freedom to Connect, Washington (3-4)
CTIA Wireless, Las Vegas (5-7)
NCTA National 2006 Show, Atlanta (9-11)

Yahoo! Q1 (18)
eBay Q1 (19)
Google Q1 (20) Q1 (25)
No precise date:
Microsoft to launch WIndows Live Video

Telegraaf closes Sky Radio acquisition (1)
Universal Pictures and Lovefilm launch download-to-own service in the UK (10)
Wegener AGM (12)
Reed Elsevier AGM (18 in London, 19 in Amsterdam)
VNU AGM (18) and bid launched
Vivendi Universal Q1 (revenues) and AGM (20)
Arbitron Q1 (20)
Wolters Kluwer AGM (26)
Brill analyst meeting (26)
Thomson Corp Q1 (27)
No precise date:
Disney closes Pixar acquisition (late April or early May) and announces launch of Disney Mobile (summer)
Arbitron rolls out PPM for radio ratings
Honest release 'My IPTV Anywhere' (place-shifting software) (late April)
HD-DVD: Warner launches 3 movies and Toshiba intros player in the US (18)
Movies: Scary Movie 4 (14, Dimension, Disney, Weinstein)
DVDs: Narnia (Disney, 4)