Also in today's regional roundup: BT enters the 4G fray with enterprise service offering; Etisalat unit mulls IPO; Arris gets some action in Poland.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has been in talks with Irish national operator eir about a potential acquisition, according to a report in Ireland's Sunday Business Post (subscription only). Referencing the report, the Irish Times notes that AT&T officials are considering the acquisition as a "low-tax route into Europe." AT&T has long been linked to potential acquisitions in Europe, though with bigger targets such as Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) in mind. Eircom, which has about 2 million retail customers and annual revenues of around €1.3 billion (US$1.74 billion), has been struggling in recent years, but has been cutting costs aggressively, restructuring its debts, and investing in its broadband infrastructure. The operator, which is owned by a consortium of lenders, announced in May that it is "exploring a number of strategic options": An IPO was believed to be one of those options, but now a trade sale looks like an alternative option, with a price tag in the region of about €3 billion ($4 billion) likely. (See Euronews: AT&T Nixes Vodafone Bid Plan , Eurobites: Eircom Joins Vectoring Club and Eircom Reports Fiscal Q2 .)
BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) has entered the LTE market with the launch of 4G services, plus unlimited WiFi access to the operator's national network of 5 million 802.11 access points, for all new BT Business Mobile customers. The service is offered over the national network of BT's new MVNO partner EE . Existing BT Business Mobile customers will be offered the 4G service if they re-sign. The UK operator recently launched its One Phone service, an integrated fixed-mobile offering that marked its first major push into the UK mobile services market in more than a decade. BT is expected to announce its plans for a consumer 4G service later this year. (See BT Embraces Small Cells for Mobile Push and Euronews: BT Signs 4G MVNO Deal.)
Still with the UK mobile sector… Regulator Ofcom has revised its planned changes to the annual 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum license fees applied to the UK's mobile operators, but the changes still aren't to the operators' liking. While Ofcom has scaled back its planned increases, the operators still face a massive hike compared with the 2G and 3G spectrum fees currently paid. The regulator is now seeking further feedback from the industry in the form of a new "consultation." For more details, see this announcement from Ofcom.
Polish cable operator Multimedia Polska is to deploy the E6000 Converged Edge Router (CER) from Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) as part of a network upgrade that will boost its "channel density and readiness for deploying converged services." Arris regards its E6000 as "the industry's leading CCAP [Converged Cable Access Platform] solution." (See Arris Rides Capex Wave Again.)
Re: Interesting angle.... The timing also is interesting in that European Commission will soon have a chief who has suggested treating consolidation in Europe with a light touch, so maybe the first of many deals for AT&T if that regime plays out.
Re: the R&D talent, there could be something to that as well, and if AT&T becomes committed to a stronger presence in Europe, Ireland could be a good place to establish one of its Foundry innovation centers.
Re: Interesting angle.... Re: affinity between Ireland and the US being strong, if this deal somehow results in the ability to download a Guinness from St. James Gate via 100G submarine cable, fiber and DSL, directly to my desktop whenever I please, then I heartily approve of this deal.
Interesting angle.... I'm sure there are plenty of accounting reasons to buy ion Ireland but it would also be an interesting cultural move too... that affinity between Ireland and the US is strong, right?
Plus there are plenty of very smart telecom people in uireland if AT&T was to open up a new R&D/innovation lab in Europe...