#TBT: Telecom M&A: NetScout, MasTec and more; Mobile broadband use rises; Hype and hope for smart grids … this week in 2014

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 those sepia-tinted shades, set the date for #TBT and enjoy the memories!

NetScout makes major network monitoring acquisition of Danaher assets

The news that network performance monitoring company NetScout is buying $2.6 billion worth of network testing, monitoring and security assets from international tech and science conglomerate Danaher sets the network-monitoring ecosystem up for substantial change. The move essentially triples NetScout’s workforce, and is being accomplished through a swap of $2.6 billion in NetScout common stock that will be extended to Danaher in order to pay for the assets of Tektronix Communications, parts of Fluke Networks, and network security company Arbor Networks, which were all operating as entities under the umbrella of Danaher’s communications business. NetScout’s most recent fiscal year revenues were $397 million, compared to the Danaher operations’ $836 million. Although the purchase plays into current trends in network analysis and the desire for end-to-end capabilities, this is also in some ways a case of deja vu. This isn’t NetScout’s first acquisition of a much larger entity than itself through a major stock-based purchase. Some history: In 2007, the company made a very similar transaction with Network General. The privately held company with a focus on deep-packet inspection for network analysis and data mining had about 4,000 customers, compared to about 1,000 customers for NetScout at the time. … Read more

MasTec buys WesTower

Consolidation in the wireless infrastructure services space continued this week with MasTec’s purchase of WesTower Communications. Florida-based MasTec said it paid $199 million in cash, or about .45-times projected 2014 revenue, for 100% of WesTower’s equity. Since 2011, WesTower had been owned by Canada’s Exchange Income Corporation. WesTower and MasTec both build and maintain towers and deploy infrastructure for wireless carriers, and are part of AT&T’s turf vendor program. WesTower recently announced that its contract with AT&T had been renewed for three years starting Sept. 1. The company is active in the northwestern part of the United States, as well as in Alaska. MasTec has worked closely with AT&T for a number of years, and is a partner in AT&T’s Tower Crew Augmentation Program, through which contractors maintain dedicated tower crews for AT&T. MasTec, a public company, is involved in construction projects outside the wireless industry, also serving the electric utility and energy pipeline industries, reporting total revenue of $1.2 billion last year. … Read more

Sprint cuts jobs at Kansas HQ

Sprint is reportedly moving forward on plans to cut jobs at its Overland Park, Kan., headquarters, according to published reports. The Kansas City Star reported late last week that the nation’s No. 3 wireless carrier was set to cut 452 jobs this month, which would bring total cuts for the year at its headquarters to more than 900 jobs. According to the report, which was based on a filing with the Kansas Department of Commerce, the latest cuts would be permanent and that more were planned. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing late last month, Sprint announced plans to cut an undisclosed number of jobs throughout the month. Sprint said the moves and would “reduce costs,” helping Sprint “become more competitive in the marketplace.” “The plan is expected to include steps to, among other things, improve operational efficiencies and reduce costs, as a result of which the company expects to incur material charges under generally accepted accounting principles,” Sprint noted in the filing. The material charges will include recognizing an approximately $160 million charge for its second fiscal quarter, which ended Sept. 30, adding “however, additional material charges associated with future labor reductions may occur in future periods.” … Read more

Mobile broadband use rises

A new report from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration reflects the fact that Americans have been rapidly adopting mobile broadband use. NTIA’s report “confirms skyrocketing demand for devices that allow users to access Internet applications nearly anywhere,” according to Lawrence Strickling, who is assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information at NTIA. The report is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau collected in late 2012, and involves more than 53,000 U.S. households. The data itself is no surprise to the mobile industry, which has seen exploding data use for years now, but it does put some official census numbers to mobile usage and also has some stats to reflect mobile technology’s role in narrowing the so-called “digital divide” between well-off households and those of lower socio-economic status. For instance, the report found that among households with family incomes below $25,000 per year, mobile phone use grew from 73% to 77% and among disabled Americas, mobile phone use increased from 68% to 72% – both reflecting increases of 4%. The census data saw the same amount of increase of mobile phone use by senior 65 and older, from 68% to 72%. … Read more

FCC looks at 600 MHz bidding rules

The Federal Communications Commission late last week rolled out a notice of proposed rulemaking connected to bidding plans for the planned spectrum auction of 600 MHz licenses. The NPRM includes the potential to change rules tied to the FCC’s controversial designated entity program, which offers bidding credits to select entities based on their size and ownership structure. Part of the proposal looks to remove barriers preventing DEs from leasing spectrum to other non-DE operators. The FCC is also looking to re-classify the financial threshold on potential DEs to provide a 35% bidding credit for business with average annual gross revenues not exceeding $4 million for the preceding three years; a 25% bidding credit for average annual gross revenues not exceeding $20 million for the preceding three years; and a 15% bidding credit for businesses with less than $55 million in average annual gross revenues for the preceding three years. In addition, the FCC will look to re-visit the “defaulter rule” that requires higher up-front down payments from companies with a history of defaulting on payments to the government agency tied to previous spectrum auctions. The FCC recently announced plans to relax the defaulter rules for the upcoming AWS-3 auction scheduled to begin Nov. 13. The FCC is also moving forward with plans to look into the current allowance of joint bidding in spectrum auctions, something that was recently brought up as part of the FCC’s seeming attempts to dissuade an attempt by Sprint to acquire smaller rival T-Mobile US. … Read more

Hype and hope for smart grids

CHICAGO – Cisco Systems tackled head on the notion that some aspects of the much-hyped “Internet of Things” were indeed over-hyped, hosting a panel session at this week’s Internet of Things World Forum asking if the “smart grid bubble” was more hype or hope. The panel, which was moderated by Cisco’s RJ Mahadev, who is business development lead for the company’s IoT services, seemed to conclude that the market was perhaps a bit of both. Don Stucket, who is VP of technology at Canada’s BC Hydro, indicated that from his point of view as a public utility, “there is a lot of hype in some of the segments,” though what he termed “maturity” in others. “This is a very complex business with a lot of algorithms with a lot of hype around different technology and services that can help in figuring out these issues,” Stucket explained. BC Hydro has dipped its toe into the smart grid space having rolled out 1.8 million smart readers across its service footprint. Scott Harden, who is VP of consulting at BitStew Systems, said he thought utilities were mostly through the hype cycle and are looking at the smart grid opportunities more pragmatically. Harden explained that many utilities are dealing with aging infrastructure that is coming up for replacement, and that utilities are looking to see if it made sense to spend the investment dollars on plugging in new equipment that could operate in a smart grid environment. … Read more

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

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