Dots in the trend lines that we analyze in depth in the weekly The Online Reporter.
Telecom Industry Consolidation Continues as Windstream Buys EarthLink
Windstream says it will buy EarthLink for about $1.1 billion, including debt. It gave the usual reasons for the acquisition: reduce operating costs – an estimated $125 million over the next three years – and compete better against its rivals.
Arkansas-based Windstream provides traditional telco phone and broadband services in rural markets. Atlanta-based EarthLink, a pioneer in dial-up broadband service in the ‘90s, has reported declining revenues for the last three years and now has $436 million of debt, which Windstream is assuming. Windstream had $4.8 billion in long-term debt as of September 30.
EarthLink, which competed against AOL and CompuServe in the ‘90s, has a dial-up broadband service that is declining as broadband expands, and a service that offers broadband to small- and medium-sized businesses.
Tony Thomas, Windstream’s CEO, said, “The combination with EarthLink further advances Windstream’s strategy by creating a stronger, more competitive business to serve our customers while increasing free cash flow and reducing leverage.”
The most recent of the five acquisitions that have radically changed the face of the telecom industry was CenturyLink agreeing to buy Level 3 Communications for about $24 billion.
YouTube Has Started Supporting HDR – Finally
Google’s YouTube has added support for High Dynamic Range (HDR), which it called the “most spectacular image quality” it has ever streamed and said it shows higher contrast and more colors than standard digital video. HDR is mainly available only in 4K content videos, which doubles the bandwidth needed compared to 1080p. HDR can also be used to enhance 1080p videos – a concept that broadcasters and pay TV networks could use without having to make massive upgrades to their networks.
Users can now upload HDR video content to YouTube. HDR videos and watch them on HDR-capable TV sets that have the Chromecast Ultra adapter. YouTube said viewers can confirm they are seeing a video in HDR if they see an “HDR” badge along with player controls. Viewers watching on non-HDR devices will see the video as a standard dynamic range (SDR) video. See:
YouTube has generally supported most prior video enhancements such as HD, 4K video, live streaming, 3D, 360-degree video and spatial audio. However, it is late to the HDR parade because a) TV makers have been shipping HDR-capable 4K TVs since early this year and b) YouTube rivals such as Netflix, Amazon, Vudu and Fandango are already offering 4K content in HDR.
YouTube has been working with DaVinci Resolve to simplify the uploading of HDR video to its site and YouTube stars and creators such as MysteryGuitarMan, Jacob + Katie Schwarz, and Abandon Visuals have been developing content in the HDR format.
It’s about time because HDR makes a major improvement in image quality – so much so that viewers instantly see the change.
Huawei Surges to 3rd in Smartphone Shipments in EMEA
Shipments of Huawei’s smartphone increased 70% annually in the EMEA, according to Canalys, which said Q3 was the first time Huawei has shipped over 10 million units in the region in a single quarter. It said that in Q3 Huawei was number three in smartphone shipments with 14% in EMEA and trailed only Samsung’s 37% and Apple’s 15%.
Ben Stanton, research analyst at Canalys, said Huawei is becoming much smarter in Europe. It has now evolved to become a major smart phone brand and innovator in its own right. Huawei’s focus this year has been on premium design and branding, with a series of celebrity endorsement deals, as well as product partnerships with the likes of Leica and Porsche Design and is clearly trying to break away from its past, and create a brand to rival Apple and Samsung.
Nokia Re-enters Consumer Market
Remember when Nokia sold its faltering cellphone business to Microsoft – an acquisition that cost Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer his job? Well, Nokia is about to re-enter the smartphone market. Images of its coming smartphones have emerged on the Net.
Speaking at the 18th Nikkei Global Management Forum, Nokia president and CEO Rajeev Suri said the company will leverage its strength in technology and networks to seize opportunities in the consumer market. He said that “constant adaptability to change” is essential or Nokia to sustain its business. He also said its acquisition of Withings will help it in market for healthcare devices. It also wants to do well in the “’programmable world” that connects objects to data used in utilities and in autonomous driving.
KT Pushes Its 5G Deployment up By a Year
KT says it will commercialize its 5G services by 2019, which is one year earlier than its previously announced plan. KT announced this week that it has reached a consensus on 5G technical specifications with the equipment and chip makers Nokia, Samsung Electronics, Intel and Qualcomm. Seo Chang-seok, VP of KT’s network strategy division, said in a press conference, “We have been on an upward track to push for setting a global standard for the upcoming 5G era after we established the 5G-SIG in November last year. The 5G specifications will serve as a backbone for our 5G demonstration plan at the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018.”
KT faces fierce 5G completion in South Korea. SK Telecom and LG Uplus have announced their intention to deploy 5G.
There is some dispute about what the “completed” 5G specification will look like and when it will be “completed.” Chang-seok said, “We hope all the local mobile carriers, network equipment manufacturers and research bodies join hands over our 5G standardization.”
Initial uses of 5G are expected to be for fixed wireless broadband. KT, AT&T, Verizon are cellcos that have said they will use 5G to offer fixed wireless broadband and Google Fiber may very well be waiting for 5G’s completion to restart its deployments.