April 1, 2023

Trying to Wean Britons From Unlimited Mobile Data

But whether EE, a joint venture of Deutsche Telekom and France Télécom, will succeed by marketing fiat alone in killing off access to unlimited wireless data in Britain remains to be seen.

The country’s mobile market is one of the most competitive in Europe, with four network operators, as well as resellers like Virgin Mobile and Tesco Mobile.

With the switch in network technologies from the decade-old 3G service to LTE, or Long Term Evolution, EE raised the price of subscribing to wireless broadband about £5, or $7.60. That increase was on packages starting at £41 a month for a service the company said was five times as fast as 3G. (LTE, a so-called fourth-generation technology, is a computer-based method of sending data, eliminating the mechanical bottlenecks of older grids.)

One in four EE customers in the new network’s coverage area have subscribed to the LTE service since Oct. 30, Olaf Swantee, the chief executive of EE, which stands for Everything Everywhere, said during a recent interview. In the United States, LTE is much more expensive, he noted, approaching or exceeding $100 a month.

U.S. companies usually charge more, but also tend to give consumers the option of sharing the data allotment on multiple devices. Verizon Wireless, the U.S. market leader, offers unlimited voice and text plus 2 gigabytes of monthly downloads on any device for $100.

The LTE packages from EE, most of which also include unlimited voice and texts, cost as little as £41 for 3 gigabytes of data downloads a month with a two-year contract.

“We have the most attractive 4G pricing in the world in the U.K.,” Mr. Swantee said on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

But the decision by EE, the biggest mobile operator in Britain, to phase out unlimited packages has drawn blunt criticism. The online journal Endgadget said British customers would have to “sign away a kidney” for the company’s LTE plans.

Reading the public mood has been difficult, and most of EE’s competitors seem unsure whether Britons, already coping with a government austerity plan, are ready to embrace new limits on mobile surfing as well.

The second- and third-largest operators in Britain, O2 and Vodafone, declined to say how they would sell LTE when they started service. Simon Lloyd, a spokesman for O2, said by e-mail that his company, owned by Telefónica of Spain, would commence LTE service in the summer.

“It is too early at this stage to talk about our pricing, but the plan is to ensure that as many people as possible can enjoy 4G,” Mr. Lloyd said. “Pricing will be competitive — certainly not prohibitive.”

A Vodafone spokesman, Richard Wray, said by e-mail that the company would turn on its LTE network by June 21 and would publish details on pricing closer to the debut. Vodafone is the largest mobile operator in Europe by market value and sales.

With consumer reaction uncertain, even EE appears to be keeping its options open, continuing to sell some unlimited 3G plans through its T-Mobile and Orange brands.

James Barford, an analyst with Enders Analysis, a research firm in London, said he expected O2 and Vodafone to follow EE and sell 4G data in distinct chunks, increasing the momentum to price wireless data in new download dosages. Mr. Barford said he would not be surprised if EE had phased out its remaining unlimited 3G plans by next year.

Mobile operators simply cannot afford to give consumers free unlimited access to wireless data at any speed in an industry where revenue fell 4 percent last year in Britain and was down 6 percent on average across Europe, Mr. Barford said.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/18/technology/trying-to-wean-britons-from-unlimited-mobile-data.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: America Movil Spends $1.59 Billion to Lift Stake in KPN

A branch of KPN, the Dutch wireless phone and Internet service provider, in The Hague.Jock Fistick/Bloomberg NewsA branch of KPN, the Dutch wireless phone and Internet service provider, in The Hague.

América Móvil, the Mexican mobile operator owned by the billionaire Carlos Slim Helú, extended its foothold in Europe after paying 1.27 billion euros, or $1.59 billion, to increase its stake in the Dutch telecommunications company KPN to 20.9 percent.

The move, announced late on Thursday, comes as KPN is losing the battle to keep América Móvil from increasing its ownership in the European company.

The Dutch telecom company has been trying to sell its German and Belgian operations in an effort to thwart Mr. Slim’s advances.

On Thursday, KPN said it had broken off talks to sell its German business. The potential suitor had been the Spanish telecom giants Telefónica, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. KPN also said it would start the sale process for its Belgian unit in July.

The tactics follow an announcement in May from América Móvil that it had offered KPN shareholders 8 euros a share to increase its stake in KPN to 28 percent. Since then, the Mexican mobile operator has progressively bought shares in the company at prices well below its offer price

América Móvil’s most recent purchase of KPN shares averaged around 7.6 euros a share. In early afternoon trading in America, shares in KPN had fallen 4.2 percent, to 7.16 euros.

KPN said that América Móvil’s offer continued to undervalue the company.

América Movil’s bid for KPN is part of company’s strategy to expand into European markets.

Last week, the Mexican operator, which has more than 240 million customers across the Americas, said it had reached an agreement to acquire a 21 percent stake in Telekom Austria, increasing its total stake to 23 percent in that country’s market leader, in a transaction that will conclude by the end of the year.

Mr. Slim also owns a stake of about 8 percent in The New York Times Company.

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/06/22/america-movil-spends-1-59-billion-to-lift-stake-in-kpn/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Raw Data: China Telecom to Start Mobile Service in Britain

BERLIN — Virtual mobile network operators — those who buy and resell calling, text and Internet services from actual network operators — have come and gone.

Nevertheless, China Telecom, the Chinese equivalent of the former Ma Bell in the United States or BT in Britain, said this month that it would introduce a similar service in Britain.

By the end of March, the company said, it plans to sell prepaid calling, text and data service to 600,000 Chinese living in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as the 600,000 who visit Britain each year.

Branded mobile resellers, like Virgin Mobile in Britain, are not new. There are about 400 virtual operators in Europe. Together, they have about 15 percent of the Continent’s mobile market, according to Transatel, a virtual mobile operator based in Paris.

But China Telecom, the No.3 mobile operator in China, behind China Mobile and China Unicom, may belong to a new breed of big, branded resellers that could start upsetting the status quo in a number of places, including Britain, where 11 million people already buy service from resellers, not network operators, said Cesar Bachelet, an analyst at Analysys Mason in Cambridge, England.

“So far, operators based in Asia have generally been slow to capitalize on mobile virtual network opportunities abroad,” Mr. Bachelet said. “We believe that it is only a matter of time before operators from various Asian countries target their compatriots.”

China Telecom is starting its British business before the London Summer Olympics, when organizers expect 350,000 Chinese visitors to attend the Games. China Telecom said it would open similar operations in France, Germany and Italy by the end of 2014.

Philippa Chan, a spokeswoman for China Telecom, said a large population of Chinese lived in Britain, part of an estimated two million there and in France, Germany, Spain and Italy. “The 2012 Olympic Games will be a huge opportunity for China Telecom,” she said.

China Telecom is the biggest, but not the first, operator to go after expatriates. In Belgium, three operators, Chiama, Ay Yildiz and MobiSud, serve the expat Italian, Turkish and Moroccan communities, respectively. Chiama and Ay Yildiz are run by KPN, the Dutch network operator. Mobisud belongs to Maroc Telecom, a Moroccan operator.

Two Turkish carriers, Turkcell and Turk Telekom, set up virtual operators in Germany, which has more than three million ethnic Turks. Turkcell began its prepaid service on Deutsche Telekom’s network last March. By December, it had 200,000 customers.

“We believe in the future of serving the sizable Turkish population in Germany and Europe,” said Banu Uzgur, a spokeswoman for Turkcell. “The operation is at the start-up stage. However, its contribution to Turkcell Group’s financials is expected to grow.”

In Britain, China Telecom’s service will run on Everything Everywhere, a 50-50 joint venture of France Télécom and Deutsche Telekom that is the market leader there. Everything Everywhere is already host to 23 other virtual network operators, including Virgin, Cable Wireless, and expat services like Econet, which is aimed at Zimbabweans.

Marc Overton, the Everything Everywhere vice president for wholesale, said China Telecom planned to disclose its British calling rates, retail outlets and brand name soon; his company had decided it could not serve the Chinese niche as effectively as a Chinese carrier could.

China Telecom’s virtual operator represents “better servicing of Chinese travelers from a brand they know and services they want,” Mr. Overton said.

John Strand, a mobile analyst in Copenhagen, said Everything Everywhere would make sure that China Telecom did not undercut it in Britain.

“The European operators will not allow the Chinese to make a lot of money in Britain,” Mr. Strand said.

Mr. Overton said China Telecom’s calling rates would indeed not be lower than Everything Everywhere’s rates. “This is not a value play, this is not a cheap-and-cheerful service,” Mr. Overton said, referring to China Telecom’s local-language operation. “This is a grown-up, adult approach to better serving Chinese customers abroad.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=fb1ca7afe8baa7c860132c731ab23750

Lax Security Exposes Voice Mail to Hacking, Study Says

But according to a study to be presented Tuesday, cellphone users in Europe and the rest of the world may be just as vulnerable as the actor Hugh Grant and other celebrities to having their personal voice mail hacked — or worse — because of outdated mobile network security.

In a study of 31 mobile operators in Europe, Morocco and Thailand, Karsten Nohl, a Berlin hacker and mobile security expert, found that many operators provided poor or weak defenses to protect consumers from illicit surveillance and identity theft.

Mr. Nohl said he was able to hack into mobile conversations and text messages and could impersonate the account identities of cellphone users in 11 countries using an inexpensive, 7-year-old Motorola cellphone and free decryption software available on the Internet. He has tested each mobile operator more than 100 times, he said, and has ranked the quality of their defenses.

He plans to present his results at a convention of the Chaos Computer Club, a hackers’ group, in Berlin, where he will open the project to researchers in other countries.

In 2009 Mr. Nohl, who runs a Berlin consulting company, Security Research Labs, published the algorithms used to encrypt voice and data conversations on GSM digital networks, which are used in Europe and elsewhere.

In an interview, Mr. Nohl said he had made sure to conduct his latest research to avoid the illegal theft of data and communications by intercepting the phone transmissions of a colleague during field tests. In random tests, he said, he ended interceptions just one or two seconds after they began.

The technique he uses focuses on deciphering the predictable, standard electronic “conversations” that take place between a cellphone and a mobile network at the beginning of each call. Typically, Mr. Nohl said, as many as 40 packets of coded information are sent back and forth, many just simple commands like, “I have a call for you,” or “Wait.”

Most operators vary little from this set-up procedure, which Mr. Nohl said allowed him to use hacking software to make high-speed, educated guesses to decipher the complex algorithmic keys networks use to encrypt transmissions. Once he derived this key, Mr. Nohl said, he was able to intercept voice and data conversations by impersonating another user to listen to their voice mails or make calls or send text messages on their mobile accounts.

Mr. Nohl said operators could easily fix this vulnerability in the GSM system, which is found in older 2G networks used by almost every cellphone, including smartphones, with a simple software patch. His research found that only two operators, T-Mobile in Germany and Swisscom in Switzerland, were already using this enhanced security measure, which involves adding a random digit to the end of each set-up command to thwart decoding. (For example, “I have a call for you 4.”)

“This is a major vulnerability in most networks we tested, and the irony is that it costs very little, if nothing, to repair,” Mr. Nohl said. “Often it is just a question of inertia on the part of operators, or they have other priorities, such as building their networks.”

Philip Lieberman, the chief executive and president of Lieberman Software, a company in Los Angeles that sells identity management software to large businesses and the U.S. government, said much of the digital technology that protects the privacy of cellphone calls had been developed in the 1980s and 1990s and is now ripe for attack.

That said, Mr. Lieberman added that the kind of interception being done by researchers like Mr. Nohl demands a level of skill and sophistication that is beyond the abilities of most individuals.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/26/technology/26iht-hack26.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: With Asset Sale, Tepco to Raise $2.4 Billion

For a bus tour of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Nov. 12, journalists joined Tokyo Electric Power Company officials.Pool photo by David GuttenfelderJournalists joined company officials for a bus tour of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Nov. 12.

TOKYO – The Tokyo Electric Power Company, operator of the crippled nuclear power plant at Fukushima, said on Monday that it would raise 186 billion yen, or $2.4 billion, by selling its entire stake in the mobile network operator KDDI.

The planned sale is the biggest yet for the utility, which is scrambling to raise money to compensate victims of the nuclear disaster.

Tokyo Electric Power, or Tepco, has been selling assets in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that caused a severe accident and radiation leak at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, displacing over 100,000 people at one point. A government panel has said that compensation claims may climb as high as $58 billion.

The company will sell its 8 percent stake in KDDI back to the mobile operator at Monday’s closing price of 521,000 yen a share, Tepco said in a statement to the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The utility will book a 35 billion yen loss on the transaction, according to the statement.

The Japanese government has been desperate to keep Tepco afloat so it can pay compensation and continue to supply electricity to the greater Tokyo region, where the utility holds a virtual monopoly.

Customers at a KDDI branch in Tokyo try out Apple's iPhone 4S.Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg NewsCustomers at a KDDI branch in Tokyo try out Apple’s iPhone 4S.

This month, the government announced a plan to inject 890 billion yen of public money into the company. Tepco should be able to raise about 700 billion yen within three years to put toward compensating victims, according to the government panel.

But the company has warned that extra fuel costs this year alone will surpass that amount, as it fires up more fossil fuel-powered plants to compensate for its crippled or otherwise out-of-service nuclear reactors. The company booked a net loss of 627 billion yen for the six months ended Sept. 30, it said on Nov. 5.

To buy back the stake held by Tepco, KDDI, Japan’s second-largest mobile network operator, plans to raise as much as 201 billion yen by selling convertible bonds, KDDI said in a separate statement.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=3db1b46f9aeb3c85ecd6f8a84dcd0655

Top Telecoms Chafe at Opening Up Networks to Rivals

BERLIN — When the chief executives of Europe’s biggest telecom companies meet on Wednesday in Brussels with Neelie Kroes, the European Union commissioner who oversees their industry, they plan to present her with a list of 11 suggestions on how to spur investment in high-speed broadband networks.

Markedly absent from the list, a copy of which was obtained by the International Herald Tribune, is a proposal being considered by Mrs. Kroes that large operators do not necessarily like: the creation of high-speed fiber networks that operate like utilities and are open to their telecom competitors.

Instead, the group plans to restate a series of principles that big operators have long espoused to keep those competitors off any new networks they might build. The group is led by Ben Verwaayen, chief executive of Alcatel-Lucent; René R. Obermann, chief executive of Deutsche Telekom; and Jean-Bernard Lévy, chairman of Vivendi, which owns the French mobile operator SFR.

“Europe needs healthy companies willing and capable to invest,” the group said as part of their recommendations, which go on to underline the distinction between network operators and operators that seek to simply lease access to a network. “Players who add value should be stimulated by the right incentives.”

The defensive tone of the network operators underlines the impasse Europe faces as it tries to stimulate economic activity by wiring most of its population to high-speed data networks: Most large telecom operators, the likely investors and builders of these new networks, benefit from the status quo, and have little interest in creating new, faster networks — and new competitors.

The reason for their reluctance is understandable. Under European law, all operators must lease access to any new network to their competitors, which in turn can often undersell the same operator because they do not have to cover the costs of running a network.

Mrs. Kroes, a Dutch economist and previously the European Union’s competition commissioner, called together the group of 39 chief executives and high-level representatives from companies like Apple, Nokia, Google, Vodafone, Telecom Italia and BT on March 3 to prepare “concrete proposals” on how Europe could accelerate the construction of high speed broadband networks.

Higher speeds enable the inexpensive, efficient delivery of data-heavy services like video, high-definition television and real-time online gaming involving multiple participants.

The European Commission’s goal, laid out in its so-called digital agenda, is to make broadband service with download speeds of at least 30 megabits per second available to all 500 million E.U. residents by 2020. Only 29 percent of the E.U. population is now connected to such networks, according to the commission, and only 5 percent actually buys the service.

“When it comes to building high-speed fiber networks, Europe needs a new investment paradigm,” said Henry Piganeu, who participated in the deliberations and is the managing partner of Cube Infrastructure Fund, based in Luxembourg. “Unfortunately, there was no consensus on this approach from the telecom industry that came out of the discussions of the C.E.O. roundtable.”

The Continent’s largest operators — Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, France Télécom, Telefónica and Telecom Italia — have lobbied unsuccessfully for legislation that will give them guaranteed investment returns on new fiber networks they build, or the ability to simply refuse to lease access to competitors.

During the roundtable’s work over the past four months, a group of banking and financial investors were asked whether they would be prepared to invest if Europe were to create a series of telecom network utilities, entities that operate much like public electric, water and gas companies and run a common infrastructure that is leased it to all operators.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=6d243e5b5ae8e184951635e0dadd3601