Mon, Mar. 23, 4:34 PM
- In the wake of loud complaints from competitors about Dish Network's (NASDAQ:DISH) wireless spectrum bidding strategy -- using small-business partners to draw a 25% discount as "designated entities" -- the FCC is edging closer to reforming the process, Reuters reports.
- After being called to Congress and promising to "fix" the bidding rules, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is circulating a document to fellow commissioners to discuss specifics on how to reform the program.
- In particular, AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) complained of "distortion" in the bidding process created by Dish's practice of bidding through its DEs.
- While using DEs is common practice, the size of that auction meant that Dish saved billions via the 25% discount.
- The recent AWS-3 spectrum auction drew a record $45B -- but a "low-band" auction coming next year may be even more crucial to the industry competitors, as that spectrum is key to the ability to stretch wireless signal further into buildings.
- More on FCC auctions
Wed, Mar. 18, 2:20 PM
- At its latest "un-carrier" marketing event, T-Mobile (TMUS +0.6%) started taking the price war to business, pushing low-cost plans for small and medium businesses that are about half that of rivals AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ).
- The company is launching a plan that offers switching companies a rate of $15/line for 20-plus lines, featuring unlimited talk and text and 1 GB of data, upgradeable to unlimited data for $30. The price drops to $10/line for 1,000 or more.
- It's also picking up device costs (up to $650) for switchers.
- T-Mobile is the smallest of the big four wireless providers, but CEO John Legere says it's not making desperation moves: "This is not a diving, 'hail mary' pass for us -- we're growing like crazy," he says in Q&A. "This is logical, planned growth."
- IDC says T-Mobile increased its share in business services to 10% from 3% last year.
- Legere also pointed to the importance of the coming lowband spectrum auction: "That [recent AWS-3 auction] wasn't an important auction for us. The lowband is."
Tue, Mar. 17, 2:03 PM
- With the proposed merger of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) getting all the oxygen from the post-net-neutrality FCC, the $48.5B deal that AT&T (NYSE:T) has to acquire DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) appears to be getting a relatively free pass.
- Both deals will create a company controlling more than a quarter of pay TV -- so it may be Internet access that's drawing extra scrutiny. The combined Comcast-TWC company would serve high-speed Internet to almost 40% of Americans.
- Even FCC petitions opposing the deals are telling: 20 against Comcast-TWC, five against AT&T-DirecTV. And 88,000 brief comments opposing Comcast-TWC, 14,000 opposing AT&T-DirecTV.
- One critic of the T-DTV deal told Reuters that Justice Department reviewers responded in a meeting with "few questions" and "blank stares."
- Today: CMCSA -0.7%; TWC -1%; T +0.1%; DTV +0.2%.
- Previously: FCC pauses review of Comcast-TWC, AT&T-DTV; likely weeks away (Mar. 13 2015)
- Previously: Brean downgrades DirecTV to Hold; AT&T offer priced in (Feb. 23 2015)
Fri, Mar. 13, 5:57 PM
- More in a growing series of moves from America's No. 3 and No. 4 carriers to cut into the share of AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) ...
- T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) is offering selected customers a free upgrade to unlimited 4G LTE for the rest of 2015. The customers are getting a text link to a page describing their upgrade. However, those customers will lose their rollover Data Stash unless they opt out of the freebie.
- In a boundless push for customers, Sprint (NYSE:S), meanwhile, is upping the ante on its aggressive pricing by offering to pay all of a customer's costs to switch to them -- remaining phone installments, termination fees, regardless of the amount. The company is requiring that you turn in your current phone and a bill showing the charges due.
- Previously: With declining postpaid ARPU, Sprint eyes customer growth (Feb. 05 2015)
Fri, Mar. 13, 4:28 PM
- As signaled before, the FCC has paused the 180-day "shot clock" on reviewing two megamergers -- Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) deal for Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), and AT&T's (NYSE:T) deal to buy DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) -- as it's tied up with another case over programming contracts.
- The review of the deals was set to expire by the end of March, but now may take somewhat longer, likely several more weeks.
- The cause is the ongoing dispute with programming firms -- Disney (NYSE:DIS), CBS, Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA), Viacom (VIA, VIAB) and others -- over whether third parties commenting on the mergers will get access to private documents containing sensitive pricing and strategy information.
- The FCC has argued it has sufficient protections to keep those details from getting out. But the merger reviews now appear to be dependent entirely on that case's timetable.
- "In reaching this conclusion, the commission reserves the right to restart the clock as it believes will best serve the public interest," the FCC said.
Thu, Mar. 12, 11:11 PM
- The FCC released its lengthy order on net neutrality and Title II regulation today, starting a timetable to get it into the Federal Register and then a 60-day period to put the rules into effect.
- Overall, the 400-page order leaves some case-by-case room for the agency to work out a few details along the way.
- The order may have been most anticipated by telecom lawyers (T, VZ), who may be preparing their lawsuits for just over 60 days from now.
- Notable news is that the agency doesn't just plan some forbearance on Title II regulation (involving treating Internet carriers as a public utility), but vast forbearance, in what seems an industry-friendly move; the focus from here may be on the details of just how much is actually "vast."
- Interconnection (governing traffic exchange agreements; key to NFLX) and sponsored data programs are subject to case-by-case review rather than the bright-line rules -- suggesting a light hand from the agency on such deals, for now.
- Industry reaction from NCTA (Cableco trade group): "Confirms our fear that the Commission has ... instituted a regulatory regime change for the Internet that will lead to years of litigation, serious collateral consequences for consumer, and ongoing market uncertainty."
- AT&T (NYSE:T): "Ultimately, though, we are confident the issue will be resolved by bipartisan action by Congress or a future FCC, or by the courts."
- Netflix: "The FCC’s order is a step toward ensuring Americans get the Internet access they pay for and content providers like us have recourse from broadband monopolists demanding what the FCC called 'unfair tolls.' "
- Also: the FCC's municipal broadband preemption order
Wed, Mar. 11, 8:34 PM
- Digitalsmiths -- the data research company owned by TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) -- has a white paper out suggesting that 1.5M Americans plan to cut the cord and ditch their pay television service, while another 38.1M are dissatisfied -- two-thirds of those because of the cost.
- The report -- based on its sample of more than 3,000 subscribers -- says 8.9% switched pay-TV providers in the prior three months, up 2.1% Y/Y.
- Another interesting number: 78.7% of respondents watch 10 channels or fewer -- which has to make future cord-cutters wonder what they're really paying for.
- While the report is largely bad news for pay TV, parent company TiVo is marketing devices both for cord-cutters and for its pay-TV partners. And 20.4% of survey takers recently upped the level of their pay service. (hat tip: FierceCable)
- Pay TV stocks today: CMCSA -1.1%; TWC -0.5%; CVC -1%; CHTR +0.7%; T -0.5%; VZ +0.4%.
Wed, Mar. 11, 12:37 PM
- AT&T's (T -0.5%) Tuesday filing reiterating its guidance for 2015 demonstrates that competition continues to press the wireless industry, Citigroup's Michael Rollins notes in reiterating a Hold rating on AT&T stock.
- He pointed to Verizon CFO Fran Shammo's commentary about churn increasing into the new year to boost the argument that cost of capacity and competition will limit AT&T's upside in the coming year, though AT&T's churn isn't looking bad lately.
- Among the negatives: The continued migration of customers to no-subsidy Mobile Share Value plans will push wireless service revenue down around 4% Y/Y, and wireless margins will be affected.
- He likes T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) for those looking to get into the space, though.
Tue, Mar. 10, 6:47 PM
- AT&T (NYSE:T) filed an 8-K with updates on first-quarter trends and reiterated its 2015 guidance, and announced it expects a Q1 charge of $130M to cover 3,000 employees taking retirement by March 31.
- In wireless trends, the company noted it expects postpaid net adds "in the 400,000 range driven by tablets." The smartphone base should grow and it expects solid gross adds and upgrades, and "postpaid churn is running lower" both sequentially and Y/Y.
- The success of Mobile Share Value (no-subsidy) plans will impact service revenues and pressure margins, though. AT&T expects the impact to diminish through 2015.
- In wireline, AT&T expects strategic business services revenue growth in the mid-teens and continued U-verse consumer revenue growth, though margins should decrease from the prior year due in part to selling Connecticut assets and "TV content cost pressure."
- In an earlier 14-A filing, AT&T valued CEO (and President and Chairman) Randall Stephenson's 2014 compensation at $24M (up 3%); CFO John Stephens' total comp at $10.1M (up 36%); mobile chief Rafael de la Vega's at $10.1M (up 14%); and Chief Strategy Officer John Stankey's at $10.2M (up 33%).
Mon, Mar. 9, 6:41 PM
- Making the rounds after Apple's Watch event, HBO (TWX +1.3%) CEO Richard Plepler says he talked to Apple's (AAPL +0.4%) senior VP Eddy Cue last spring about a "shared vision" for the TV service -- though HBO's programming partners are scrambling a bit to sort out a response this month.
- On the thorny issue of HBO's cable/satellite partners who may object: "We are talking to all of our partners," Plepler says, adding HBO thought "it would be a great vehicle for them."
- While Apple has a three-month exclusive for its devices, program providers could get into that window via their existing relationship with HBO. Cablevision (NYSE:CVC) and Cox Communications were known to be in discussions with HBO already about providing the service. Cox is mum so far on how/if it will make HBO Now available to broadband-only customers.
- Apple makes a pretty good partner for a content company that has no experience with direct customer service; meanwhile, Apple has a massive payments infrastructure and 400M credit cards already set up. NPD analyst John Buffone tells Tom's Guide that Apple TV is No. 1 in their last streaming device report, ahead of Roku, Chromecast and Fire TV. It's used by 25M.
- No exclusive window comes without money changing hands; while financial terms are undisclosed, it's possible there's a middle ground between the 30% cut that Apple takes in apps and the 50-50 split HBO has with some existing program partners. HBO thinks the addressable market is 10M broadband-only subscribers, meaning a landscape of $150M/month to split more or less evenly.
- Related programmers: CMCSA, TWC, T
Sat, Mar. 7, 7:50 AM
- AT&T's (NYSE:T) gotten booted from the Dow Jones Industrial Average to make room for Apple, and declined 1.5% Friday, as most do -- but maybe that removal is cause for rejoicing for its shareholders.
- Most exiles have been doing very well since their exit, with few exceptions, CNBC notes: Altria is up 142% since its 2008 boot. Honeywell is up 82% since its removal that same day. Citigroup up 58% since it left in 2009. Hewlett-Packard up 60% since its 2013 departure.
- One rationale: The first-day move "is very technical and negative" due to index player selling, Armored Wolf's Bradd Kern notes, "which you would expect to be resolved over the course of a year as fundamentally driven, nonindex players do their work and pick up the pieces."
- The exiles also tend to be "generally out-of-favor, value-oriented companies" that certainly have their own fan club among investors.
- Getting included is also no small benefit, they say -- but it's not beating getting ousted.
Fri, Mar. 6, 9:14 AM
- Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) will take AT&T's (NYSE:T) spot in the Dow Jones Industrial Average following the March 18 close.
- Since the Dow is price-weighted rather than market cap-weighted, the change was made possible by Apple's 2014 7:1 split. As of right now, Apple will account for 4.7% of the Dow's weight.
- AAPL +1.4% premarket to $128.13. T -1.3% to $33.56.
- ETFs: DIA, DOG, DXD, UDOW, SDOW, DDM
Thu, Mar. 5, 8:36 PM
- One of the key goals in AT&T's (NYSE:T) Project VIP network expansion is no more -- the company says it no longer plans to deploy 40,000 small cells by 2015's end.
- The company says acquiring Leap Wireless last year gave it more macro sites and it therefore doesn't need as many small cells as planned -- though a source tells FierceWireless that the carrier didn't account for the time and regulatory effort in a deployment that size, and that it has set up only about 20,000.
- AT&T hasn't commented on its deployment size but says small cells are still a key part of its network.
- The FCC moved in the fall to speed environmental review for setting up small cells and co-located equipment.
- Small cells are increasingly important for network flexibility as demand shifts quickly, and setting up a conventional macro cell site at this point is time-consuming and usually cost-prohibitive, especially considering the ones in existence.
Mon, Mar. 2, 3:12 PM
- At Mobile World Congress, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) confirms its plans to offer wireless phone service "in the coming months" -- a small MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator, where it would offer branded services by piggybacking on a partner's network.
- The company says its entry will be modest and designed to showcase technological innovation, similar to what it does with its Nexus branded hardware, made by partners. But in a hotly competitive market, it could take share and have an impact on whichever competitors it doesn't align with (T, VZ, TMUS, S).
- Google hasn't named whose network it would ride on, but it has service-reseller deals with Sprint and T-Mobile.
- Besides its direct impact on the fortunes of competitors, which might be small, Google's move might spur innovation from them if it moves on a vision of better wireless connectivity.
- This afternoon: GOOG +2%.
Fri, Feb. 27, 6:37 PM
- Fresh off their vote for re-regulation of Internet transmissions, the five FCC commissioners will be spending mid-March on Capitol Hill answering to the GOP Congress.
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding its hearing March 19, a day after the members are scheduled with the Senate Commerce Committee.
- The chairmen of the two committees, Greg Walden and John Thune, are backing a bill that would reverse the FCC's Title II reclassification (treating Internet providers more like utilities) and substantively narrow its approach to ensuring net neutrality.
- Following the 3-2 vote, major carriers indicated their strategy would be twofold: Lawsuits (CMCSA, T, VZ, CHTR worried about "years" of litigation); and legislative action to undo the move, with a cooperative congress apparently ready to act.
- Other related stocks: CVC, TWC, CTL, FTR, ELNK, DISH, DTV, CCOI
Fri, Feb. 27, 4:45 PM
- Verizon (NYSE:VZ) has joined peers, including AT&T (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS), in complaining to the FCC that Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) distorted the results of the FCC's AWS-3 wireless spectrum auction with its bidding tactics.
- Verizon ran its own analysis of the data and concluded close coordination between Dish and its designated entities ((DEs)) that Verizon says created a false sense of demand and drove the price above market value.
- For its part, Dish has been on the record about disclosing and gaining approval for its actions ahead of the auction, though the resulting total bids came in over even the high estimates.
- Major players have been jockeying for position with the FCC ahead of a likely even more important low-band auction next year.
- More on the FCC auction
- Previously: AT&T: Dish's auction approach skewed results, needs restriction (Feb. 20 2015)
- Previously: T-Mobile's Legere calls for spectrum-auction rule changes (Feb. 18 2015)
T vs. ETF Alternatives
AT&T Inc, through its subsidiaries and affiliates, provides wireless and wireline telecommunications services in the United States and internationally. The Company has three reportable segments: Wireless, Wireline, and Other.
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