Verizon adds Google’s Stadia to Fios bundling options

The Verizon Fios bundling initiative is starting to look like an attractive proposition, and now it has added Google’s cloud gaming offer for an additional twist.

Launched in January, the mix and match offer looked like a sound attempt to boost broadband sales through bundling. There were several interesting elements, including the ability to pick-up and drop certain elements on a month-by-month basis, though adding a gaming segment will make the offer attractive to a small niche of US society.

The mix and match proposition is not a silver bullet for profitability, but more an incremental gain approach to building a comprehensive bundling offer. Each additional element will make the offer attractive to an additional sliver of the population. It’s a gradual and sustainable approach to take the company forward.

As part of the partnership with Google, new customers will receive a free Stadia Controller and Google Chromecast Ultra, as well as a Stadia Pro subscription for first 3 months, which will then cost $9.99 a month. Bundling in with a Fios Gigabit broadband service, Verizon is promising download and upload speeds up to 940 and 880 Mbps respectively, it could be attractive to the growing community of gaming enthusiasts.

According to analyst firm Newzoo, North America is second-largest region for gaming in terms of revenues, accounting for $39.6 billion, while the US is forecast to overtake China as the world’s number one individual market. And while mobile gaming is the largest segment currently, cloud gaming platforms are forecast for a surge in growth over the next few years.

The cloud gaming trends are driven by two elements. Firstly, the availability of platforms and the aggressive nature the providers, such as Google and Microsoft, expanding services. Secondly, the rollout of full-fibre networks and imminent adoption of 5G connectivity will ensure providers are able to deliver the promised experience to consumers.

The days of pure play telcos are drawing to a close very quickly. The attitudes commoditising data and the continuing decline in data prices will erode profitability of connectivity, meaning additional revenues will have to be sought elsewhere to increase (or maintain) ARPU. Another element to consider is the attractiveness of offers.

Numerous telcos are attempting to create convergence connectivity products as well as building on additional added value services such as security, gaming or entertainment options. Consumers are seemingly open to bundled contracts, meaning pure play telcos might become less competitive in comparison to some.

What Verizon is currently building might not revolutionise the financial spreadsheets overnight, but it is slowly developing a very attractive bundling service. Orange has validated the convergence business model in Europe, though this took years to create, and it now seems Verizon is getting a run on the market in the US.

Verizon the biggest winner of the latest US millimeter-wave auction

An investment of $1.6 billion got Verizon almost five million licenses in the US auction of the Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands that will be used for 5G.

You can see who got the most below. Apparently T-Mobile had been expected, at least by some analysts, to be the big winner, but it ended up a distant third. It’s also worth noting by how much Verizon won the auction, dropping almost half a billion bucks more than second placed AT&T. We’d be lying if we said we knew why there was so much variation in the price per license, but Columbia Capital must have really fancied those 52 it won.

Winner Payment Licenses
Verizon $1,624,101,808 4,940
AT&T $1,185,734,976 3,267
T-Mobile $872,791,192 2,384
Columbia Capital $306,711,619 52
Dish $202,532,574 2,651
U.S. Cellular $146,342,281 237
Sprint $113,948,318 127

“The successful conclusion of Auction 103—the largest amount of spectrum offered in an auction in U.S. history—is one more significant step the FCC has taken toward maintaining American leadership in 5G,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “A critical part of our 5G FAST plan is pushing more spectrum into the commercial marketplace. Last year, the FCC auctioned the 28 GHz and 24 GHz bands.

“All told, those two auctions and this one have made available almost five gigahertz of high-band spectrum for commercial use. To put that in perspective, that is more spectrum than is currently used for terrestrial mobile broadband by all wireless service providers in the United States combined. Auction 103 was a tremendous success, and we look forward to building on this positive result with the 3.5 GHz auction, which is scheduled to begin on June 25, and the C-band auction, which is scheduled to begin on December 8.”

Have you noticed how much Americans like the word ‘tremendous’ these days? One definition of it is ‘being such as may excite trembling or arouse dread, awe, or terror’. Fair enough. The mid bands on offer later this year are also for 5G. Those frequencies have better propagation characteristics than millimeter wave but there will be less of them, as is so often the way with radio spectra.

FCC proposes $200 million fine for location snooping telcos

The four major MNOs each face the threat of a weighty fine, collectively totalling more than $200 million, for helping third parties stalk customers.

Thanks to all four of the national US telcos selling customer location data to third parties over a sustained period of time, the FCC has proposed fines supposedly proportionate to the impact. While there are justified and responsible means for third party companies to use telco location data, this was certainly not one of them and the telcos have been found guilty of not protecting the data privacy rights of customers.

“American consumers take their wireless phones with them wherever they go,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “And information about a wireless customer’s location is highly personal and sensitive.

“The FCC has long had clear rules on the books requiring all phone companies to protect their customers’ personal information. And since 2007, these companies have been on notice that they must take reasonable precautions to safeguard this data and that the FCC will take strong enforcement action if they don’t. Today, we do just that.”

The proposed fines are as follows: AT&T is potentially liable for $57,265,625, Verizon $48,318,750, T-Mobile US $91,630,000 and Sprint $12,240,000. What is worth noting is that it appears the investment community has been buoyed by the figures presented by Pai.

Telco Price at close Friday 28 February Price at time or writing (pre-market trading)
AT&T 35.22 (-1.43%) 35.66 (1.25%)
Verizon 54.16 (-1.63%) 54.52 (0.66%)
T-Mobile US 90.16 (-1.18%) 91.05 (0.99%)
Sprint 9.19 (-1.08%) 9.35 (1.74%)

The final hours of trading for the telcos were hardly the most profitable for the industry, though as the proposed fines emerged over the weekend there has been recovery. There may well of course be other factors, but it does appear the investment community believed these fines could have been larger.

Privacy red flags were raised here following an article in the New York Times which claimed a Missouri Sheriff named Cory Hutcheson was making use of location finding services from Securus without the appropriate legal authority. Instead of uploading documents such as a search warrant, irrelevant documents were uploaded such as health insurance policies and pages from Sheriff training manuals. What soon emerged from the eventual investigation was a slurry of abuse and the development of a nefarious industry.

“This investigation is a day late and a dollar short,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

“Our real-time location information is some of the most sensitive data there is about us, and it deserves the highest level of privacy protection. It did not get that here – not from our nationwide wireless carriers and not from the Federal Communications Commission. For this reason, I dissent.”

While it is hardly unusual for Democrat Rosenworcel to oppose the actions of a Republican controlled FCC, there is a valid point being made, despite it being somewhat lost in the immaturity of US politics. Firstly, the fines probably do not match the profits made or negligence from the telcos. Secondly, Pai elected to ignore action for far too long. And finally, the amount of redacted information in the documents blur the picture, protecting the reputations of the guilty telcos.

Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, another Democrat, has painted another very similar gloomy picture, also choosing to dissent to large swathes of the FCC process. The condemning tone is hardly surprising, but the FCC does not look the most competent coming out of this saga.

When the initial suspicions were raised, nothing was done. When it appeared the practice was still largely continuing, actions were meek. The investigation took too long and the fine does not necessarily look proportionate. Not only did these telcos mislead the regulator, they broke the law, lied to customers and profited for at least five years from the practice.

Under the leadership of Ajit Pai, the FCC has taken a much more hands-off approach to regulation of the telco industry, allowing business to be business. But there are more and more examples of private industry, not just the telcos, demonstrating they are not responsible enough to act independently within the parameters of responsibility.

Verizon plugs healthcare in the never ending search for 5G ROI

Delivering 5G is the easy bit, figuring out how the telcos are going to make any real financial gains from it is the piece of the puzzle which is missing.

In its pursuit of the much lauded 5G profits, Verizon has announced a partnership with Emory Healthcare, creating what it now claims is the first 5G healthcare innovation lab in the US.

“The potential of Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband combined with mobile edge computing to transform healthcare is limitless,” said Tami Erwin, CEO of Verizon Business Group.

“Which is why Verizon is partnering with Emory to explore the 5G future of patient care. With 5G, doctors should be able to do things like create holographic 3D anatomical renderings that can be studied from every angle and even projected onto the body in the OR to help guide surgery.”

In what now appears to be the greatest PR campaign of the 21st century, the world was told 5G was the only way forward and it would recapture the lost fortunes of yesteryear for the telcos. The reality is somewhat different however as many telcos are still questioning how they are going to generate any ROI from the next generation of mobile technology.

The silver bullet is as real as a sociopathic unicorn, and it does now appear the industry has a new reality to ponder; profit by a thousand usecases.

In its efforts to create value in the healthcare industry, the Emory Healthcare Innovation Hub (EHIH) will aim to transform this vertical through the marriage of super-fast speeds and ultra-low latency networks, with real-time data analytics to add some credibility to the blue-sky thinking ideas of robotic surgery, the connected ambulance and remote patient monitoring.

Realistically, there is a lot to gain in the healthcare industry. This is a vertical which is under financial and operational pressure, and in desperate need of new ideas. Should the clunky bureaucracy of healthcare administrators be able to offer technology a clear path forward, there is an opportunity to create a preventative healthcare mission and significantly realise efficiencies throughout the hospital.

While it might seem like an obvious statement to make, the challenge which the likes of Verizon and Emory Healthcare will face here is going to be cultural. Perfecting the technology is the easy part of the equation, but convincing traditional industry to disrupt themselves will be a monumental task.

Verizon plugs its 5G in London

The US and UK might not be on the best of terms at the moment, but Verizon has opened a London office to demo its 5G goods and draw attention from international customers.

After opening 5G development labs across the US and signing 5G/MEC partnership with with América Móvil, KT, Rogers, Telstra and Vodafone, Verizon is continuing to expand its remit with the new office in Holborn, central London.

“Verizon has proven expertise in delivering 5G in the US,” said Tami Erwin, Group CEO of Verizon Business. “One of the best ways of unleashing the true possibilities of 5G is getting it into the hands of innovators and visionaries. Our London facility enables our international customers to benefit from this expertise as they look to deploy 5G-enabled applications and experiences.”

The lab itself it not only geared towards engaging international customers, but also spreading its wings to develop its own ecosystem system in new markets. The aim will be to enable co-creation for new software services and hardware products in such areas as autonomous vehicles, smart communities, virtual healthcare, smart manufacturing, the industrial Internet of Things, immersive education, augmented and virtual reality and responsive gaming.

Alongside the 5G lab, the team will also open a production studio in April, where Verizon Media’s owned and operated brands, as well as partners, can create the content of tomorrow. This content could be 3D, focused on virtual reality, or hologram-based, though the objective is to create new ideas through combining technologies such as volumetric capture, motion capture and AR broadcast, with the speed and power of 5G.

“The new London studio represents our continued commitment to give our consumers access to premium next-generation experiential content across our global ecosystem of brands,” said Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan.

“As we move from a 2D world into a world that includes 3D content, Verizon Media is providing our publishers and advertisers access to a cutting-edge technology platform, giving them the ability to experiment with 5G, and providing the means to distribute them at

Huawei hits out at Verizon with Texas patent lawsuit

Huawei has announced it has filed a patent lawsuit against Verizon with the District Courts of both East and Western Texas districts, covering several applications in its fixed line business unit.

Although Huawei is not a supplier to Verizon, the Chinese firm is claiming several products in the wireless business make use of patented technologies which are protected by 12 Huawei patents. Verizon is yet to make comment on the lawsuit, though Huawei claims there have been various meetings between the two parties to discuss this dispute over the last 12 months.

“For years now we have successfully negotiated patent license agreements with many companies,” said Huawei’s chief legal officer Song Liuping. “Unfortunately, when no agreement can be reached, we have no choice but to seek a legal remedy.

“This is the common practice in the industry. Huawei is simply asking that Verizon respect Huawei’s investment in research and development by either paying for the use of our patents or refraining from using them in its products and services.”

This lawsuit is somewhat of a no-lose situation for Huawei. If it wins the lawsuit, it could be the focal point of a PR campaign to fight back against Chinese-aggression, but a loss could also be spun due to the anti-China rhetoric.

While details are thin on the ground, this is not the first time this saga has emerged. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported Huawei had written to Verizon about this very matter, demanding payments which could have exceeded $1 billion. Song has not confirmed how much Huawei is asking for, though the lawyer did suggest the two companies had met several times to discuss the matter.

And while this is an interesting development, the Huawei legal team are of course no strangers to the US legal system.

On the offensive, Huawei has filed lawsuits against the White House claiming the ban on working with US suppliers is unconstitutional, while it has also questioned the legality of the FCC’s demands on rural suppliers. The FCC has previously stated any telco with Huawei equipment in the network cannot access federal subsidies for rural connectivity.

Sitting on the other side of the aisle, a trial date has been set in March 2020 to decide whether Huawei had stolen trade secrets from T-Mobile US concerning a phone testing robot called Tappy. It was also accused of stealing patents from Portuguese inventor Rui Pedro Oliveira.

Verizon Super Bowl ad called out for hypocrisy

The purpose of Verizon’s ad at this year’s Super Bowl is not entirely clear, but the stick it has taken is very obvious, especially following the California wildfires blunder.

The advert, which you can see at the foot of the article, seems to be an attempt to emotionally blackmail the audience by highlighting everything 5G won’t be able to do in place of humans, but it has not been particularly well received. The message seems to be little more than a cheap attempt to secure favour, and it does appear the audience has seen through it.

At the time of writing, the one-minute video has been viewed over 57,000 times on YouTube, not a particularly high-number for a Super Bowl ad, being ‘liked’ 287 time and ‘disliked’ 563 times.

Comments have been switched off on the video, though judging by the reaction of the Twitter universe, this was an intelligent decision. Several posters paid homage to Verizon’s decision to throttle firefighter’s data during the 2018 California wildfires, which saw 8,527 fires burn an area of 1,893,913 acres, the most damaging fire season on record.

Again, aside from tapping into a sense of patriotism, a common play for US advertisers, the objective of undermining the role of 5G is not entirely clear. More than anything else, it looks to be a superficial approach to make use of the Super Bowl pandemonium and tug on the heart strings of the US general public.

Ever the opportunist, T-Mobile US CEO John Legere and the Magenta army took the opportunity of one of the worlds most popular sporting events to throw a few digs at Verizon:

The rise of T-Mobile US and the deployment of its 600 MHz 5G spectrum across the US has seen a conflict emerge. Without access to the valuable C-Band spectrum, 3.5 GHz, like the rest of the world, high- and low-band spectrum are forming the foundations of the US telco’s 5G plans.

AT&T, Verizon and Sprint have been aggressively pushing forward with mmWave assets, while T-Mobile US has put the 600 MHz spectrum at the centre of campaigns. Neither will deliver an effective 5G experience which ticks all the promised boxes, mmWave will fail on coverage and propagation while 600 MHz will fall short on speed, but T-Mobile US is making the most of the difficulty by producing very attractive coverage maps if you don’t know what 5G actually is.

It is difficult to pick a winner in the US 5G race right now, but the T-Mobile US team are certainly better at gaining attention and PR inches. Perhaps this explains the misguided attempt at patriotic advertising from Verizon, an alternative approach to gain public credibility which looks to be nothing more than a swing-and-a-miss right now.

RootMetrics US numbers indicate TMUS/Sprint merger is a good idea

The performance metrics of the four US MNOs confirm a significant gap between the big two and the other two.

RootMetrics did a deep dive into the networks of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint over the second half of last year. In the customary way it then published top-line performance numbers and ranked the networks according to a few sub-criteria. As you can see in the first table below, Verizon comes top in nearly all categories, with AT&T close behind and the other two lagging considerably. We’re not sure why AT&T isn’t number one in any of the speed categories but it’s presumably explained somewhere in the methodology.

The report also takes a specific look at 5G and finds some pretty major variations in performance. Verizon got so excited about the finding that ‘Verizon’s 4G LTE speeds were faster than the low-band 5G median download speeds of T-Mobile in Chicago and Los Angeles and identical to AT&T’s low-band 5G median download speed in LA,’ that it published a special press release. This doesn’t come as a massive surprise since TMUS is devoting so little spectrum to its 5G right now.

The more significant issue raised by this report is how far behind TMUS and Sprint remain on most key metrics. This would seem to support the case for their merger, since the resulting economies of scale, buying power, etc, would allow greater investment in the network. Whether or not that would actually come to pass, or whether shareholders would trouser the cash instead, is hard to predict. But it seems counter-productive to insist they continue to struggle as second-tier MNOs.

A bunch of operators get together to push 5G and MEC interoperability

América Móvil, KT Corp., Rogers, Telstra, Verizon and Vodafone have formed a new gang called the 5G Future Forum.

The stated aim of the gang is to ‘accelerate the delivery of 5G and mobile-edge computing-enabled solutions around the world.’ It apparently thinks that there are issues around the interoperability of 5G specifications that need sorting out. This doesn’t seem to refer to the 5G standard itself, but rather 5G-enabled solutions like autonomous vehicles, smart factories and so on.

“This forum of global leaders in 5G marks an important step in ensuring edge computing works seamlessly for our customers,” said Vinod Kumar, CEO of Vodafone Business. “These new specifications will allow us to offer services that work consistently across the globe and support devices moving between countries. 5G opens up a wealth of opportunities for new solutions and business models and we’re excited to play a role in bringing them to life.”

“5G is a key enabler of the next global industrial revolution, where technology will transform how we live and work. It’s critical that technology partners around the world unite to create the most seamless global experience for our customers,” said Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon. “We are proud to join with our fellow 5G leaders to unlock the full potential of applications and solutions that will transform with 5G’s fast speeds, high reliability, improved security and single-digit latency.”

All the other founding members got a canned quote too but you get the gist. Other than a press release there doesn’t seem to be much else to the forum yes, not even a website. Presumably other operators will be brought into the fold in due course, but the absence of any telecoms or technology specification organisations looks like a potential issue.