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October 29, 2014
After several weeks of talking about the new iPhones, attention has now turned to Apple's
new payment solution dubbed Apple Pay.
Some reports surfaced this week that some major retailers such as WalMart and Rite Aid are now
blocking Apple's contactless payment system as they are preparing a competing product of their own.
To be sure, Apple CEO Tim Cook addressed the issue during a talk at a Wall Street Journal
conference. Video clips of the talk were broadcast online.
Cook called the initial resistance from retailers a skirmish and went on to tout how quickly
iPhone users are adopting Apple Pay.
"In the first seventy-two hours we'd gone over the one million mark on activations of the new cards,"
Cook said. "If you sum up everyone that's in the contactless mobile payments at the point of sale, we're
already number one."
Apple also may be looking for a payments partner in China. According to Cook, Apple is targeting
a potential wedding with Alibaba's AliPay.
Cook added that Alibaba Group's Executive Chairman Jack Ma is exactly the kind of person that
Apple likes to partner with.
"I have the utmost respect for Jack," Cook said. "We love to partner with people that are
smart, that have flexible teams and make great products."
Cook's remarks come after a number of retailers began rejecting Apple Pay. Those retailers
are part of a joint venture called the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCE), which is developing
something called the Current C Platform.
Current C is testing in limited locations around the U.S. with a full rollout expected by 2015.
A press release from MCE states that Current C aims to simplify and expedite the customer checkout
process by applying qualifying offers and coupons, participating merchant rewards, loyalty programs
and membership accounts, and offering payment options through the consumer’s selected financial account,
all with a single scan.
In other mobile news
Everybody and their dog suspected it and now it’s finally official-- the Amazon Fire Phone
is a huge fiasco for the company, and it just lost $544 million in the quarter because of it.
During the company’s third-quarter earnings call last Thursday, Amazon CFO Tom Szkutak put
it in perspective by primarily attributing a $170 million loss “to the Fire phone inventory evaluation
and supplier commitment cost,” according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.
Amazon's Fire Phone huge failure helped contribute to an unexpected $544 million operating
loss on the quarter, up substantially from a $25 million loss in the year-ago quarter. Amazon this summer announced its first smartphone and made it a $199 exclusive at AT&T. Shortly
after launch the cost of the Fire Phone dipped to $0.99 with a two-year contract.
Slow adoption for Amazon’s new device has been partly blamed on its AT&T exclusivity and
its pricing on par with other more popular top-tier smartphones.
On a separate earnings call, Szkutak called the Fire Phone a “good device in a very competitive
market,” according to a Recode report.
The Fire Phone gathered some hype based on its 3D display, dubbed “dynamic perspective,” and
its Firefly button able to identify music, movies and everyday items and then direct users to a
product page on Amazon. But that's pretty much what it was: hype.
In other mobile news
Verizon said today that it's currently seeing an industry-wide shift from prepaid to postpaid plans,
according to Chief Financial Officer, Fran Shammo.
During a 3rd quarter earnings call yesterday, Shammo said that recent competitive pressure on pricing
levels in the U.S. would drive mobile subscribers to postpaid plans.
“We’re just looking at the overall mobile industry, and the assumption is that we do see
the prepaid customer moving,” Shammo added. “If you look at single-line pricing, those price
points are pretty close to what you’d pay on postpaid.”
Shammo made the comments during an earnings call that saw Verizon Wireless post a whopping 1.5
million postpaid net adds in the third quarter, up 63.5 percent from the same 2013 quarter.
To be sure, tablets continued to be a big driver of usage. Broken out, Verizon’s total postpaid
additions included 457,000 postpaid phones and 1.1 million postpaid tablets.
Shammo also noted that tablet customers are currently using more data than 3G smartphone
customers. So while margins slipped slightly year over year to 48.5 percent on $12.6 billion in
capital expenditures (CapEx), revenue for the company’s wireless segment was up 7 percent to $21.8
Consolidated earnings per share came in at 89 cents per share, up from 78 cents per share in the
same quarter in 2013.
Shammo said that he still expects CapEx to hit $17 billion by the end of the year, but he believes
the company can improve on margins going forward.
When asked whether increased upgrades in the fourth quarter would improve margins, Shammo said
that service revenue margins will continue to be affected by Verizon’s response to industry competition.
“There is some deceleration here, as we increase the bundles, it’s going to take some time
before people have to take the next step up,” Shammo said.
In all, Verizon activated 8.9 million smartphones during the quarter. The wireless carrier
noted that about 77 percent of all mobile phones on Verizon’s network are now smartphones, up
67 percent from the same quarter last year.
Retail postpaid average revenue per account (ARPA) increased 3.5 percent annually to $161.24
And while Verizon has expanded its XLTE offering to 400 markets on its AWS holdings, Shammo
said he was unable to comment on the upcoming AWS auction due to the FCC rules.
European Union trade chief Karel De Gucht believes he’s come to a practical solution to a
trade dispute with China over telecom equipment subsidies.
The EU has been fighting relentlessly with China, its second largest trade partner behind
the United States, over what the EU claims are illegal subsidies for mobile network equipment
made by Chinese companies such as Huawei.
Following a trade conference in Rome yesterday, De Gucht told Reuters that the trade partners
had reached a sort of agreement, and he’d be asking the European commissioners to drop the case next
Chinese telecom equipment makers Huawei and ZTE export approximately US $1.26 billion worth of products
annually to the EU, competing directly with European-based equipment makers Ericsson, Nokia Siemens
Networks and Alcatel Lucent.
Some details of the agreement are expected to be released in the next few days. Chinese Premier Li
Keqiang will be meeting with top EU officials in Milan, Italy, later this week.
The EU has fined Deutsche Telekom and its Slovak subsidiary US $88.5 million for blocking its competitors
in Slovakia’s Internet market.
The companies are accused of preventing competitors from accessing Slovak Telekom’s broadband
In other mobile news
You could probably agree that the topic of connected cars is a popular one these days, but what
isn't fully understood it that it's still relatively unclear in it’s own definition as a concept.
Need more information? Well, although it’s interesting to talk about 'infotainment' and all the
things you’ll be able to do while driving in your vehicle to make it feel more like your living room,
the reality is that the primary focus of the automotive industry is safety.
And it should be, bare none. This week Rohde & Schwarz announced a partnership with Miro-sys in
order to enable test simulations of automotive radar for both development labs and production
A key factor is ensuring the safety of the occupants of cars and trucks as they travel down the road
From the Miro-sys venture, the solution includes its Automotive Radar Target Simulator (ARTS), a
part of its Innovative Technical Systems (ITS) portfolio.
The radar simulator can be used by various production facilities in order to manipulate the potential
implications of speed, size and distance of the object and some weather conditions in order to determine
the responsiveness of automated driver assistance systems (ADAS).
The ARTS system is optimized for the standard automotive radar band, it it has a broad RF band
capability that extends from 75 GHz to 80 GHz.
The functionality shows real-time performance simulation of many real life situations. For example, the
detection of a specific object, ie-– are you approaching a bike, car or wall?
And how will the vehicle itself respond to this based on the speed at which it is traveling and the
external weather conditions?
Rohde & Schwarz are providing the FSW-K60C signal and spectrum analyzer to the solution. The new
system is targeted at research and development teams requiring a tool to test the signal performance
of automotive radar.
By testing the signal performance while in the design phase for radar sensors, organizations will
be able to determine the true potential impact to the signal performance of external factors such
as environment, speed and other critical elements.
Combined, these products enable developers to verify signal processing algorithms of sensors at an
earlier stage. There is also the ability to test at a deeper level during the production process.
Distances of less than one meter can be simulated and tested with this solution. Users also
have the option to create their own test scenarios and review them at a later time for future simulations.
All test results can be saved for background documentation required by the automotive industry for
various safety requirements.
The solution can test 100 percent of the safety-relevant radar components on the production line
as opposed to conducting random quality assurance tests where there is the possibility for a
key issue to be overlooked.
The major difference compared to offers in the market today is the ability to run real-time
tests with different parameters as opposed to individual static test simulations based on optical
In other mobile news
Location-based services are entering a new era of opportunities for wireless carriers, with applications
for network optimization and personalized offerings for mobile subscribers that are based on the ability to
leverage collect and analyze large amounts of location data, according to market research firm ABI.
“Location for wireless carriers is no longer about navigation applications,” said Patrick Connolly,
senior analyst for ABI.
“Overall, location-based services will become an essential tool in network optimization and customer experience management, as
we move to LTE, heterogeneous networks and personalized subscriber packages. While this in itself gives
a clear return on investment, there is also significant upside on new exciting areas such as retail/indoor,
financial/banking, big data analytics and advertising.”
ABI expects direct carrier revenues in this area to reach about $2 billion by 2019 “with far greater
ABI cited an increase in joint ventures between wireless carriers to provide scale in this area,
as well as announcements of solutions such as Verizon’s Precision Market Insights and Smart Rewards;
AT&T’s Location Information Services; SK Telecom’s Indoor Location; Sprint’s Pinsight Media; and
Orange’s Data for Development.
“Wireless carriers have been sitting on a location goldmine for too long, fearing a privacy
backlash,” Connolly said. “But through careful segmentation of aggregated, anonymous analytics and advertising,
coupled with clear opt in/out options and third-party approval of anonymity, carriers can
overcome these unnecessary fears, while giving subscribers the power to choose how their data
is used, if at all. Demand is growing for location-based information and there is always a need for
a Google alternative. Carriers are well placed in the analytics, retail, financial and advertising spaces to
be just that.”
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