Upgrade to 5G Costs $200 Billion a Year and May Not Be Worth It

Upgrade to 5G Costs 0 Billion a Year and May Not Be Worth It

(Bloomberg) — In the wildest dreams of wireless engineers, the mobile network of the future controls our cars, lets our refrigerators talk to the grocery store to order more milk, and provides fast, reliable broadband connections to our homes so we can sever ties with cable companies.

But it’s going to cost the mobile-phone companies, chipmakers, device manufacturers and software developers about $200 billion a year in research and capital spending to get to that point, with engineers laboring to work around interference from trees and rain and provide a strong enough signal to handle so much demand.

Even if they’re successful, making a profit on that investment will be difficult in an industry that isn’t growing much anymore. In most developed countries, like the U.S., the wireless market has reached saturation, and there are few new subscribers to sign up without undercutting rivals on price.

“Historically, 1G to 4G, it’s been a pretty straightforward evolution from the point of view of business and technology,” said Chetan Sharma, a wireless consultant. “The revenue grew proportionate to the usage.”

The future of 5G, as the next-generation wireless network is known, is already beginning, as a handful of carriers including Verizon Communications Inc. move from trials to deployments. The first technical standards everyone can use to design their networks, phones and chips for 5G will be released at a summit that starts Monday in Lisbon.

Most mobile-phone companies are targeting 2020 for the initial rollout of the technology, which promises 10 times faster speeds and lower latency, or lag time in transferring data when it’s requested. After that, wireless carriers’ revenue will grow about 2.5 percent a year through 2025 — only about half a percentage point more than their growth in the prior five years, according to industry group GSMA.

This time around, it’s not clear that 5G will translate into more revenue until perhaps five or 10 years from now, Sharma said. New applications like the Internet of Things — using wireless connectivity to let machines on the factory floor talk to each other, and for autonomous cars on the freeway to talk to light signals — may take years to materialize, and may not pay that much.

First, engineers have to figure out how to make 5G work. Rain, fog and trees have long been the enemy of high frequency radio waves. AT&T Inc. is among the companies that have been exploring the problem. With environmental conditions “you get degradations but we haven’t lost signals completely,” said Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and chief technology officer.

Given the relatively short, fragile nature of high-frequency 5G signals, carriers have to configure networks differently. They’re shifting more of the network hardware from tall towers that are scattered to spread signals over broad areas, to smaller, more clustered sites like rooftops and street poles.

These “small cells” use cabinets that look like mini-refrigerators mounted on poles or rooftops. Inside the cabinets there’s an array of more than 1,000 antennas, says Ed Chan, senior vice president of network planning for Verizon. In dense, urban areas, network engineers will have to install lots of small cells to handle demand for data, adding to the costs of 5G.

Some companies, including Verizon, aim to make money by offering up 5G as an alternative to home broadband connections, competing with cable and landline phone providers. High costs could make that commercially unviable.

“Carriers are all looking at 5G for fixed wireless broadband, even though the technology isn’t particularly well suited to that application,” said Craig Moffett, an analyst at MoffettNathanson LLC. “That’s largely because it is almost impossible to identify any other real revenue opportunities for the technology.”

Verizon says it will take a targeted approach, which will require a few years of spending before there’s enough 5G service to prove that it can be a viable source of revenue.

The company has told analysts and investors that the goal for the first phase of its 5G network is to build a coverage area of 30 million homes starting next year in Sacramento, California, and possibly four additional cities. It will take a “short number of years” of network investment to have 5G within reach of that many homes and a few years before it shows some returns, Verizon Chief Financial Officer Matt Ellis said at a UBS investor conference earlier this month.

“As we’ve seen with other products, you build up to your penetration levels over some period of time,” Ellis said. After enough customers sign on, it “starts to be significant to our financials in the next two to three years,” he said.

Each of the top four wireless carriers in the U.S. decided to take different paths with 5G. AT&T plans to sell both a direct-to-home wireless service and a mobile service. T-Mobile US Inc. is adapting its network to 5G through a software update, and Sprint Corp. is planning to upgrade its antenna towers with advanced network gear. Neither T-Mobile nor Sprint have specified how they plan to generate revenue from 5G.

Verizon and AT&T have been testing the 5G technology in controlled settings. The trials have gone well enough to take the service to consumers starting late next year.

Sprint plans to boost network spending from about $4 billion this year to as much as $6 billion in 2018 as it kicks off a four-part upgrade plan, Chief Financial Officer Tarek Robbiati said at an investor conference earlier this month.

T-Mobile, meanwhile, is saying it will be the first to offer 5G service nationwide, though it’s not clear if they’re referring to the same type of technology others are implementing.

“The capital we’re putting in the ground, starting now, is future ready,’’ Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert said this month at the same conference. “We’re not hyping it right now like our competitors because we actually have a story in the part of a business where the revenues and profits are.”

Source: TheWHIR

Cybersecurity for Novices Has U.K. Firm Trouncing Silicon Valley

Cybersecurity for Novices Has U.K. Firm Trouncing Silicon Valley

(Bloomberg) — In a world where protecting against cyber crime is high on most big business agendas, a U.K. provider of IT security to clients as small as dentists and neighborhood stores is outpacing the best that Silicon Valley has to offer.

Sophos Group Plc shares have more than doubled in 2017, beating every other stock in the Nasdaq CEA Cybersecurity Index, including larger California-based peers such as Symantec Corp. and Palo Alto Networks Inc. The stock has also left domestic equities trailing, being one of the top five performers in the U.K.’s FTSE All-Share Index.

Investors’ appetite is understandable. After this year’s global WannaCry ransomware attacks and headline-grabbing hacks at Uber Technologies Inc. and Equifax Inc., demand for cyber security has never been greater — whether you are a multinational corporation or a local shop owner. It’s a platform that’s giving Sophos some lofty ambitions in a British technology sector that was jolted by the $32 billion Japanese takeover of ARM Holdings in July 2016.

“We should be, we will be, the U.K. tech champion,” Chief Financial Officer Nick Bray said in an interview.

To get there, Bray will need to overtake software giants including Sage Group Plc and his former employer Micro Focus International Plc, whose market value of about 10.8 billion pounds ($14.5 billion) dwarfs Sophos’s 2.5 billion pounds.

The executive’s optimism is mostly shared by analysts, with nine out of 10 having buy recommendations on the stock and none advising clients to sell. Morgan Stanley named Sophos its top European technology sector pick for 2018 in a note on Friday. Yet, after this year’s gains, not all are bullish: KeyBanc’s Rob Owens cut Sophos to sector weight last month when it was trading about 12 percent above its current price of 541 pence.

“It’s had a heck of a run,” Owens said in an interview. “It’s not overly expensive, but it’s not overly cheap anymore.” Trading about 31 times calendar 2018 free cash flow, the stock is “fairly valued” compared with companies like Symantec and Qualys Inc., he said.

Demand for Sophos’s services is growing as cyber crime tactics evolve. According to Bray, criminal gangs are changing tack and aiming hacks at a large number of smaller companies instead of a handful of bigger corporations, making cybersecurity “very relevant’’ for smaller firms.

Sophos’s products are aimed at mid-market businesses with up to 5,000 employees, but also include very small companies that are “playing catch up” with the need to protect against cyberattacks, he said. A dental practice could lose access to its patient records, for example.

While knowledge of IT security remains in the “very embryonic” stages, both general awareness and the sophistication of customers is increasing, Bray said.

The same game of catch-up appears to be happening with investors. Bray said Sophos was initially “misunderstood” when it sold stock in a 2015 initial public offering at 225 pence a share, having pulled a previous attempt at an IPO in 2007. A challenge of listing in London over the U.S. was that “we had to get the awareness up of what we did,” Bray said.

Sophos has “spent a lot of time educating” investors on the size of its addressable market, its competitive position and its financial model, specifically the size of its customer base and its renewal rate, the executive said. In November, the company raised its outlook for the 2018 financial year, reporting 22 percent first-half billings growth and hailing its renewal rate, a growing base of subscription revenue and a 220 percent rise in sales of its Sophos Central cloud platform.

After riding a wave in technology stocks for much of the year, Sophos shares have slipped back with the sector in recent weeks, also weighed down by a share placing by early investor Apax Partners. That and some recent share sales by directors led to oversupply, a weak share price and “misplaced concern about the fundamentals, which are very strong,” said Numis analyst David Toms, who upgraded the stock to add from hold last week.

Organic growth remains Sophos’s primary focus, according to Bray. The company is always evaluating “targeted technology tuck-ins” to boost its offering via mergers and acquisitions. Any deals it does pursue, like the 2015 purchase of Dutch endpoint protection firm SurfRight and this year’s acquisition of the software product arm of Invincea, would be done to expand the product offering and boost cross-selling scope, burnishing its organic growth potential.

Yet the pace of the company’s growth raises the question of whether Sophos may itself become a target. While no board members want to sell, “it’s not impossible,” Bray said. “You can never stop somebody knocking at the door.”

Source: TheWHIR

Net Neutrality Rules Swept Aside by Republican-Led U.S. FCC

Net Neutrality Rules Swept Aside by Republican-Led U.S. FCC

(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Federal Communications Commission swept aside rules barring broadband providers from favoring the internet traffic of websites willing to pay for speedier service, sending the future of net neutrality on to a likely court challenge.

The Republican-led commission voted 3-to-2 on Thursday to remove Obama-era prohibitions on blocking web traffic, slowing it or demanding payment for faster passage via their networks. Over objections from its Democrats, the FCC gave up most authority over broadband providers such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. and handed enforcement to other agencies. The changes won’t take place for at least two months.

“It is time for us to restore internet freedom,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was chosen by President Donald Trump to lead the agency, and who dissented when the FCC adopted the rules under Democratic leadership in 2015. “We are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence.”

“This decision puts the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic member who voted against changing the rules.

The change frees broadband providers to begin charging websites for smooth passage over their networks. Critics said that threatens to pose barriers for smaller companies and startups, which can’t afford fees that established web companies may pay to broadband providers, or won’t have the heft to brush aside demands for payment. Broadband providers said they have no plans for anti-competitive “fast lanes,” since consumers demand unfettered web access.

The FCC’s vote concludes a tumultuous eight-month passage since Pai, proposed gutting the earlier rules. The agency took in nearly 24 million comments, but many of those appeared to be of dubious origin including almost half a million routed through Russia. Dozens of Democratic lawmakers expressed opposition, while Republicans lauded Pai’s plan.

The FCC’s action will “return the internet to a consumer-driven marketplace free of innovation-stifling regulations,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in remarks prepared before the agency’s vote.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, said the FCC with its vote “will put internet service providers, not consumers, in charge of determining the future of the internet.”

Pai argued that the Obama-era rules brought needless government intrusion to a thriving sector, and discouraged investment in broadband. Supporters said investment has flowed unhindered, and that rules are needed to keep internet service providers from unfairly exploiting their position as gateways to homes and businesses.

The FCC with its 2015 rules claimed powers that could include regulating rates charged by internet service providers. The agency said it wouldn’t immediately do so, but the prospect helped propel broadband providers’ opposition.

The cable and telephone companies also criticized the breadth of what critics called utility-style regulations, including a portion written to allow the FCC to vet data-handling practices it couldn’t yet envision. Companies supporting Pai’s rollback proposal included AT&T, Verizon Communications Inc. and cable providers led by Comcast and Charter Communications Inc.

Web companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. wanted to keep the previous regulations. “Having clear, legally sustainable rules in place finally established rules of the road and provided legal certainty,” the Internet Association, a trade group for web companies, said in comments to the FCC. “The commission should maintain its existing net neutrality rules and must not weaken their firm legal basis.”

With its vote the FCC rescinded its 2015 decision to treat internet service providers using a portion of the laws designed to regulate utilities. Much of the debate over net neutrality has revolved around this question of classification: whether Washington regulators can wield the kind of intrusive rulemaking that’s also used, for instance, to tell telephone providers when and where they can stop offering service.

The FCC also abandoned the bulk of its oversight role, saying antitrust authorities and the Federal Trade Commission can monitor for anti-competitive practices. Critics say those agencies don’t have expertise and act only after abuses occur, rather than setting rules that guide behavior.

In addition, the authority of the FTC is under question in a case before federal judges in California, where AT&T is contesting a sanction from the FTC for deceiving smartphone consumers who paid for unlimited data only to have their download speeds cut.

Opponents of Pai’s rules are expected to ask U.S. judges to overturn the ruling and restore the old rules. Issues before the judges will include whether the FCC has adequate grounds to reverse a decision taken less than three years earlier. Judges last year upheld the previous rules.

Congress could write a law to overrule the FCC’s action, but it hasn’t acted as Democrats dismiss Republican invitations to legislate to a permanently weaken the 2015 rules. The Democrats’ “wall of resistance” may weaken in the new year after partisan fervor heightened by Thursday’s vote has a chance to abate, Cowen & Co. analyst Paul Gallant said in a Nov. 21 note. A bill might restore some basic net neutrality protections and also bar the FCC from regulating rates, Gallant said.

The new rules are to take effect 60 days after being published in the Federal Register that chronicles regulatory activity, the FCC said in its draft order for Thursday’s vote.

Source: TheWHIR

Squarespace Is Said to Raise Funding at $1.7 Billion Valuation

Squarespace Is Said to Raise Funding at .7 Billion Valuation

(Bloomberg) — For years, Squarespace Inc. has been a leader in the old-school art of designing websites. Its main rival, Wix.com Ltd., has been public since 2013, but Squarespace remains private.

Now in its teenage years, Squarespace is giving early employees and investors a way to cash out. The New York-based company said General Atlantic LLC, an investment firm and Squarespace backer, is injecting a new round of funding, most of which will go toward buying stock from other investors and employees.

General Atlantic will commit about $200 million to the deal, and the new shares value the business at $1.7 billion, said a person with knowledge of the deal. Squarespace Chief Executive Officer Anthony Casalena declined to comment on terms of the funding.

As many technology companies postpone initial public offerings indefinitely, early backers are getting restless. The Bloomberg U.S. Startups Barometer, an index tracking the private technology industry, shows IPOs and acquisitions are at a three-year low. More startups are arranging deals similar to Squarespace’s to appease shareholders. Uber Technologies Inc. recently offered stockholders the option to sell to a group of investors led by SoftBank Group Corp. at a 30 percent discount to the most recent valuation. At least two high-profile backers have already agreed to participate.

Unlike Uber, Squarespace is profitable. “If anything, we actually would have been interested in buying more,” Anton Levy, managing director and head of internet and technology at General Atlantic, said in an interview. “Even people that were early investors that have made a fabulous return sold a small percentage.”

Revenue in the past year increased 50 percent to about $300 million, Casalena said. Squarespace isn’t far behind Wix, which is expected to generate about $424 million this year. The Squarespace brand has gained recognition among consumers for its ubiquitous podcast ads and a Super Bowl commercial featuring John Malkovich.

But Casalena suggested Squarespace has more to do before a potential IPO. He said the company is focused on helping customers sell products through their sites. This effort puts Squarespace more directly in competition with Bigcommerce Inc., Etsy Inc., Shopify Inc. and, most terrifyingly, Amazon.com Inc. “It’s the most requested feature on the platform right now,” Casalena said. “A lot of people are there building a brand. They want to sell something.”

Its broad customer base, which includes wedding photographers to family-run pizza parlors, gives Squarespace a unique group of people to grow its commerce products into, whereas a company like Shopify is focused on online-only e-commerce sites that sell physical goods, Casalena said.

The funding round is a milestone for the 13-year-old business and its 700 employees, Casalena said. It brings Squarespace into the realm of Buzzfeed Inc. and Reddit Inc., both with similar valuations, according to research firm CB Insights. “We’ve been a little under the radar for a lot of people,” Casalena said.

The next stage of growth is to build into more international markets like France and Germany, he said. Right now, around 30 percent of the company’s business is outside the U.S.

Analysts and bankers have been expecting the company to go public since at least 2016. Casalena declined to comment on IPO plans but said he’s building a company capable of doing so. “We want to do this on our own time table,” he said. “We’re not in a rush.”

Source: TheWHIR