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#TBT: Vodafone pulls up Verizon Wireless stake; Microsoft buys Nokia smartphone biz; AT&T launches Aio prepaid … this week in 2013

Editor’s Note: RCR Wireless News goes all in for “Throwback Thursdays,” tapping into our archives to resuscitate the top headlines from the past. Fire up the time machine, put on the sepia-tinted shades, set the date for #TBT and enjoy the memories!

Cha-ching! Vodafone cashes out its Verizon Wireless stake
Following years of speculations, Verizon Communications has finally gained full control of its wireless division, announcing a deal to purchase Vodafone’s 45% stake in Verizon Wireless for $130 billion. The deal, which was announced today, will consist mostly of cash and shares in Verizon, with Verizon forking over $58.9 billion in cash and $60.2 billion in stock. In addition, Verizon will issue $5 billion in notes payable to Vodafone; sell its 23% interest in Vodafone Italy for $3.5 billion, thereby providing Vodafone with full ownership of Vodafone Italy; with the remaining $2.5 billion of the transaction value a combination of “other considerations.” To fund the deal Verizon said it has “entered into a fully executed $61 billion bridge credit agreement” with J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, Morgan Stanley Senior Funding, Bank of America and Barclays. The deal is expected to close before the end of the year. The move puts Verizon on more equal footing with domestic rival AT&T, which has full control over AT&T Mobility … Read more

AT&T launches its short-lived Aio prepaid brand
AT&T Mobility says it will roll out its new Aio prepaid service nationwide next month. Aio offers three plans, ranging in price from $40 to $70 per month. All offer unlimited talk, text and data, but the amount of 4G LTE data is limited. Customers can bring their own phones or buy a new one to use with the plan — a new phone will cost full price because carriers do not subsidize prepaid phones. A 32-gigabyte iPhone 5, for example, is $800 without a subsidy. The Aio brand is separate from AT&T’s GoPhone offering, which is also a prepaid plan. AT&T has blamed slowing GoPhone sales for a decline in its prepaid customer base. The nation’s second largest carrier has been losing prepaid customers to T-Mobile US and Sprint. It lost 184,000 prepaid customers during the first quarter, and gained 11,000 in the second quarter. Carriers are increasingly focused on the prepaid market, as more wireless customers eschew contracts in favor of less expensive plans that allow more frequent upgrades. The nation’s largest carriers have tried recently to have it both ways, offering contract plans that allow subscribers to upgrade their devices more frequently. AT&T’s Next plan, T-Mobile’s Jump, and Verizon’s Edge all give subscribers the chance to upgrade faster than they could with a traditional 20-24 month contract … Read more

Microsoft ponies up $7.2 billion to buy Nokia’s smartphone operations
Microsoft is spending $7.2 billion to buy Nokia’s smartphone business. Nokia (NOK) will retain its Nokia Solutions and Networks infrastructure business (NSN), its Nokia HERE mapping tool, and its patents, which Microsoft will continue to license. The Finnish company says the deal will close during the first quarter of next year, and will be accretive to earnings. The takeover had been expected by some ever since Nokia hired Stephen Elop from Microsoft in 2010 and abandoned its Symbian operating system in favor of Microsoft’s Windows. Now Elop is returning to Microsoft, where he will be a candidate to succeed outgoing Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer. At Nokia, Elop was the subject of considerable criticism from detractors who questioned his close alliance with Microsoft, but now he is poised to control the world’s largest software company as well as one of the most venerable brands in the smartphone world. Nokia was the world’s top maker of mobile phones until last year, when it ceded that title to Samsung. Smartphones now outsell feature phones, and Nokia has been late to the smartphone party. Apple’s name is now synonymous with innovative design and groundbreaking handset technology, and Samsung is the undisputed sales leader. Nokia wants to reclaim all those distinctions, and Microsoft is determined to be a force in mobile software just as it has dominated software for personal computers … Read more

American Tower snags more sites with $4.8 billion deal
Consolidation is set to strike the tower space as American Tower announced this morning plans to acquire smaller rival Global Tower Partners’ parent company Macquarie Infrastructure Partners Tower Holdings for approximately $4.8 billion. The deal, if approved by regulators, would add around 5,400 domestic towers; 800 domestic property interests under third-party communications sites; management rights to over 9,000 domestic sites, which are primarily rooftop assets; and 500 communications sites in Costa Rica to American Tower’s portfolio of more than 56,000 owned and managed sites. American Tower’s management cited the wireless industry’s current push to deploy next-generation services as a key to initiating the deal. “With all four major domestic wireless carriers engaged in aggressive multi-year 4G LTE deployments, we believe our acquisition of GTP solidifies our path to achieving our strategic goals related to growing our [adjusted funds from operations]over the next five years,” explained American Tower President and CEO Jim Taiclet in a statement. American Tower noted that in combination with the GTP assets it expects to generate $345 million in revenues and $270 million in gross margins next year. Terms of the deal call for American Tower to provide $3.3 billion in cash and assume $1.5 billion in debt from GTP, with financing coming from cash on hand and borrowing under its existing revolving credit facilities. American Tower expects the deal to close by the end of the year … Read more

AT&T opens Foundry location with partner Cisco
AT&T has opened its fourth Foundry location for established companies and start-ups to develop new products and services. The Foundry location in Atlanta is hosted by Cisco Systems, and will focus on connected home technology. mobility and the Internet of things. Paul Mankiewich, CTO and vice president of Cisco’s service provider mobility business group, said that while the company has participated in projects at AT&T’s other Foundry locations, this is its first move to sponsor a location. He described the environment as open and collaborative, with what he called a “Silicon Valley mentality” for innovative projects.“It’s a means of coming up with new types of services and solutions that the network operator can provide to either consumer or enterprise users,” he said … Read more

Check out the RCR Wireless News’ Archives for more stories from the past.


Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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