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FCC approves Verizon-Tracfone acquisition, demanding consumer protections

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The Federal Communications Commission voted on Monday to approve Verizon’s $6 billion bid for prepaid mobile company Tracfone, which it announced back in September, pending the regulatory approval that finally came this week.

“After rigorous review, the Commission found that the transaction, as modified by Verizon’s enforceable commitments, will make Verizon and Tracfone stronger providers of prepaid and Lifeline services,” the FCC said in a press release.

The FCC’s announcement includes the demand that Verizon should report semiannually on its compliance for the next seven years, as well as having to “retain both an internal company compliance officer and an independent compliance officer to ensure compliance with these commitments for seven and a half years, according to the FCC’s approval letter.

As part of its decision to approve the deal, the FCC said that it would be requiring Verizon to make several consumer protection agreements with the agency. Also, the company must provide “cost-effective” 5G devices and services to Lifeline customers.

However, it is still not clear which commissioners voted to approve the deal, in a time when there are only two Democrats and two Republicans serving at the agency, meaning at least one Democrat would have been required to approve the purchase.

Tracfone is the largest reseller of wireless devices in the U.S. and maintains over 20 million subscribers with more than 90,000 retail locations. Verizon’s Tracfone acquisition combines the largest mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) with the largest wireless provider in the country.

That said, when Verizon first proposed the deal last September, it said that the acquisition would strengthen Tracfone’s networks while making low-income wireless services more competitive.

When the deal was announced, Verizon’s CEO Hans Vestberg tweeted that the company was excited to “put the full support of Verizon behind this business.”

Verizon has already spent a good amount of $53 billion on radio airwaves this March, therefore it is considered another big investment from the wireless carrier.

The company will be expected to report regularly on these conditions and submit to oversight for more than seven years, according to the FCC. “The company will also have to “retain both an internal company compliance officer and an independent compliance officer to ensure compliance with these commitments for seven and a half years,” it added.

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Telecoms

India’s Reliance Industries seek controlling stake in UK’s BT Group

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Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) is assessing the possibility of bidding on British telecom titan, BT Group Plc., reported by the Economic Times.

According to the report published by the news hub on Monday, Reliance is currently planning to place an unsought offer to obtain shares into the British telco, or as an alternative, to have a controlling stake in the company. From the 419 institutional investors in the British firm, some have expressed their interest in cashing out if a suitable offer surfaces.

In parallel, Reliance is considering proposing a partnership with BT’s fiber-optic firm, Openreach, to finance and expand its plans.

Currently, BT Group’s market gap has reached a whopping $20.63 billion since November 26th. In the event of RIL taking control of the UK company, it will mark the biggest outbound merger and acquisition (M&A) related to any Indian establishment.

An outbound M&A is when a domestic company obtains or merges with a different firm in a different country. This demands notable guidance concerning the legality and issues of compliance to accommodate the other country’s demands, restrictions, and requirements to be included in the pre-merger interactions.

Analysts believe that Asia’s wealthiest man, Chairman and managing director at RIL, Mukesh Ambani, has directed his attention towards BT to further expand the company’s reach on a global scale.

It is worth mentioning that this does not mark the first time Reliance has tried to reach out for global expansion. In September, the Indian Group was outbid by a consortium of Apax and Warburg Pincus to obtain power over Netherland’s T-Mobile.

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Palestine to finally receive 4G rollout, agreement to be settled

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Israel has finally agreed to authorize 4G rollout to Palestine, as its latest initiative from the Israeli government to enhance Palestinian daily life.

While the country has already deployed 5G networks to its areas, Palestinian citizens have yet to indulge in the 4G rollout experience, as Palestinian telcos are still operating their services with 3G.

Following a closed meeting held between Israel and Palestinian telecoms, and repetitive complaints from Palestinian officials that Israel has not shown initiative to begin technical discussions until April.

Despite that no official agreement has been made, Palestinian telcos are waiting for clarification regarding the extent of bandwidth to be available, given that a previous Israeli agreement has been rejected by the telcos since Israel offered to provide a modest number of frequencies.

Even if Israel authorizes the agreement, local telecom operators will still need around six months to a year to purchase and import the required equipment for the 4G rollout in rural areas.

In 2018, the Israeli government agreed on the deployment of a 3G network for Palestinian citizens. However, the rollout was confined to the West Bank, given that Israel has not permitted domestic service providers to buy 3G equipment for Gaza, which is still operating on 2G.

The demand has risen from Palestinian to attain 4G networks, as it will heighten the country’s economy, as well as push residents from using Israel cellular networks and focus on local ones instead.

It is worth mentioning that Israeli networks deliver a much higher signal frequency reaching deep into Palestine’s region, in addition to their low-cost effectiveness and faster networks compared to the local ones.

This could potentially raise havoc for Palestine’s telcos as their pricing is too high, a factor led by Israel’s intense restrictions on network frequencies and limitations on towers infrastructure and location.

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Huawei to boost Malaysia digitization through new innovation center

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In an effort to boost Malaysia’s digitization, Chinese telecom giant Huawei seeks to accelerate the country’s digital economy transformation by building the country into a regional digital hub, Huawei said in a press release on Tuesday.

The company unveiled its newly refurbished and upgraded Huawei Customer Solution Innovation Center (CSIC) as part of a commemoration ceremony celebrating its 20th anniversary since entering the Malaysian market, the release noted.

Malaysia Prime Minister, Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Bin Yaakob said, “The CSIC is a testament to Huawei Malaysia’s commitment to the nation’s digital transformation.”

I was informed that most of Huawei Malaysia’s employees are local. Talents are a crucial part in accelerating digital transformation for the nation, he said.

The Prime Minister added that he believes that Malaysia has the capacity and capability to achieve 100 percent digital inclusivity, especially among vulnerable communities.

“I am proud to say, in embracing the concept of Keluarga Malaysia, Huawei has taken an important role in helping the Government address this matter. I hope more corporations will come forward to follow in your footsteps,” he said.

As such, Huawei’s CSIC was designed as an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Hub and Centre of Excellence to run the industry’s open ecosystem and accelerate digital economy transformation in Malaysia.

The CSIC, which is located in Integra Tower at the heart of Kuala Lumpur, aggregates the company’s over 120 reference applications and services globally.

Huawei’s customers and partners can leverage this innovative platform to design and test technology solutions, verify new business models, and nurture innovation applications and services to both the public and private sectors.

Huawei Malaysia CEO Michael Yuan said that through the CSIC, Huawei Malaysia would continue to bring global experiences to serve the needs of the ICT industry in Malaysia and to assist local stakeholders in succeeding in their businesses.

“This center will act as a catalyst to accelerate Malaysia’s digital transformation and to capitalise on the potential of advanced technologies and assist in driving investments in the digital economy for the nation at the same time,” added Yuan.

Cloud Computing was another highlight, with Huawei working with Malaysian communication service provider Telekom Malaysia on their Alpha Edge, the only Malaysian-owned Cloud and AI infrastructure and services to enterprises and government institutions that ensures data sovereignty.

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