Telstra (OTCPK:TLSYY -1.8%) and Optus Mobile were the big spenders in Australia's competitive 1800-MHz spectrum auction, which drew A$543.5M in spending from the country's big four providers.
Optus led all comers with A$196M, just ahead of Telstra at A$191M. TPG (OTC:TPGTF) spent A$88M, and Vodafone (VOD -2.4%) the least at A$68M.
The auction was set to improve 4G coverage in regional and remote Australia; currently, Telstra, Vodafone and Optus use the 1800-MHz band to deliver their 4G networks in metropolitan areas.
Vodafone, which skipped the digital dividend auction in May 2013, has been looking at regional expansion after refarming spectrum in Australian Capital Territory, the coast of New South Wales and the Blue Mountains, and switching on 850 MHz 4G in sites across Queensland.
No terms were disclosed, though Telstra expects the deal to be done toward the end of February. Kloud features 150 employees located across Australia and in Manila and will add to Telstra's Network Applications and Services portfolio.
Kloud has worked predominantly in Singapore but assists corporate and government customers across the Asia-Pacific region.
With Australia ringing in the New Year, telecoms took steps to prepare for a heavy increase in overnight traffic, including huge numbers around fireworks hot spots.
Vodafone Australia (NASDAQ:VOD) and Telstra (OTCPK:TLSYY) both forecast heavy jumps in texts, calls and data usage and planned to deal with the surge with a multi-pronged approach including portable cells as well as apps and Wi-Fi hotspots.
Vodafone planned heavy use of "cells on wheels" as it foresaw texts more than doubling during the festivities, to about 3.2M/hour in the overnight period.
Telstra expected 11.5M texts to cross its network between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., and a total of 900M GB of data to be downloaded, twice as much as a year ago, along with 57M texts and 39M calls.
It's pushed customers to use a New Year's Eve app that preloads a few dozen texts that it would automatically send at midnight for free. It also won exclusive rights to stream fireworks shows through that app as well as its website and YouTube channel.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone (NYSE:PHI) will maintain record capex amid growing competition, including a possible market entry from Australia's Telstra (OTCPK:TLSYY), PLDT's chairman says.
In an interview, Manuel Pangilinan says the company is again setting aside 43B pesos ($915M) for network improvement after a few years of declining profits and a drop of nearly 3M subscribers this year. He also took responsibility for the incumbent's slow response to competing apps allowing free Internet calling: “I don’t pretend to be a digital native."
Competitor Globe Telecom (OTCPK:GTMEY) is putting pressure on with innovative partnerships, including teaming up with Cherry Mobile to increase smartphone usage among lower-income customers. Globe still trails PLDT in prepaid customers, 47.75M to 64.08M, but that gap is shrinking.
Telstra is talking with San Miguel Corp. for a joint venture in the Philippines.
The move makes Vodafone the second Australian provider to offer general VoLTE, as Telstra (OTCPK:TLSYY) said it's progressively rolling out the service to its postpaid subscribers (also to Samsung devices, and the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus).
It's the first step in moving all voice traffic to 4G, says Vodafone Australia CTO Benoit Hanssen.
Voice over LTE promises longer battery life as well as shorter call set-up times for subscribers.
The move is slightly bigger than the usual music sponsorship deal, the company says; Telstra customers will get 48-hour exclusive pre-sale access for tickets to all tours as well as exclusive content, merchandise and VIP packages.
It'll be implemented through the Telstra Thanks loyalty program. The deal was put together by Mixitup Australia, a partnerships agency that is a joint venture of Live Nation Australia.
Last October Telstra asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for permission to raise wholesale prices 7.2% as users leave its copper network for the National Broadband Network, since economies of scale are lost.
But the ACCC saw a bad endgame: "Eventually these prices would reach absurd levels for the unlucky last copper customers," said the regulator's chairman, Rod Sims.
Heating up a telecom battle in Australia, incumbent provider Telstra (OTCPK:TLSYY) is accused of putting the country's citizens to a A$3B "price premium" in a new report -- funded by key competitor Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD).
The report, from the Centre for International Economics, says Telstra customers are paying A$20/month too much for fixed-line services and A$9/month extra for mobile, and that they are paying 50% more per gigabyte of data.
It calls for transmission prices to be set at cost by regulators, as well as for better access to regional spectrum for competitors -- as well as a revamp of a universal-service fee that competitors say is a subsidy to Telstra.
Telstra is swinging back at competitors following the report: "The experience of the Australian market makes it clear the companies willing to invest in their network are able to attract more customers and drive increased consumption, while under-investment results in the opposite."
With a customer base around 27M (16M mobile), Telstra has a significant lead over peers such as Vodafone (about 5.3M mobile customers in country).
Global growth will lead the way, the firm says, especially in China (Asia Pacific has 50% of the world's fixed broadband subscribers, and China Telecom (NYSE:CHA) is the worldwide share leader) -- as well as Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Arrgentina, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Other insights: DSL's still the biggest technology, but growth is coming via fiber-to-the-home and DOCSIS 3.0 cable; and FTTH subscribers grew 22% last year to cross the 100M-subscriber line.