In other news, UK politician Boris Johnson has unrealistic fiber dreams, Comcast sees new opportunities for X1, Dish goes home, UK consumer org may avoid court for angry subscribers and the FCC bumps up USF tax -- a sure-fire way to raise US consumers' ire.
Going, going, gone: French entrepreneur Patrick Drahi -- founder of Altice who also acquired Suddenlink and Cablevision Systems -- just bought Sotheby's for a cool $3.7 billion. But Altice will remain Drahi's main focus, he said, not the auction house known for selling multi-million-dollar impressionist paintings, solid gold watches and other almost priceless artifacts. Although the Altice USA chairman and head of Altice Europe said he will not sell any shares of the European company to fund his newest acquisition, Drahi plans to "monetize a small position in Altice USA [of] up to $400 million" by year-end. No word on whether Sotheby's will handle the sale.
Boris Johnson, front runner to be Britain's next prime minister, promises tax cuts and ubiquitous full-fiber coverage (plus the real prospect of a no-deal Brexit), by 2025, reported Light Reading's Iain Morris from Connected Britain. Operator executives listening to BoJo's comments greeted them with "restrained laughter," given that only about 7% of UK households could access fiber networks in May 2019, according to regulatory body Ofcom. (See Brexit-bound Britain's broadband blues.)
Fiber, Fiber Everywhere
The entire UK will have end-to-end fiber by 2025, according to Boris Johnson. And everyone will drive a Jag, live in a palace and earn six figures while working once a week.
Dish Network is re-entering the smart home and IoT market with the launch of OnTech Smart Services for both current and non-Dish subscribers. The direct-to-consumer offering offers on-site installations for many retail devices and entertainment systems via same- or next-day service. Dish is advancing its plan to launch a narrowband IoT network, with future expectations to fund and deploy a standalone 5G network, reported Jeff Baumgartner on Light Reading.
Comcast added eye control to X1, empowering people with disabilities such as spinal cord injuries and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), to control the cable operator's TV services without lifting a finger or speaking a word. A web-based remote (for tablets or computers) is partnered with assistive technologies like existing eye-gaze systems and "Sip and Puff" switches, according to Comcast.
Under a plan the British government is considering, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) may be able to fine service providers for breaking consumer laws and for "poor business behavior" without going to court. CMA expects this will deter operators that use misleading claims, unfair terms and conditions, seemingly endless service subscriptions and contracts that are difficult to break, it said. Nothing in the release addressed operators' ability to argue their cause.
The FCC announced this month the Universal Service Fund "contribution" factor will be 24.4% next quarter. Fixed and mobile long-distance voice providers generally pass that cost along to long-distance voice users (who often complain to and about their operators about this tax). For reference, in September 2018 the tax increased to 20% for the first time. With the number of voice calls via phone lines decreasing each month, how far will the feds push this tax, which originally was used to fund voice lines for those who could not afford them?
Charter has sparked RDOF work in all 24 states where it won bids. The cable op booked about $19 million in RDOF revenues in Q1, and expects to have about $9 million per month come in over the next ten years.
Launch of 2-Gig and 5-Gig FTTP tiers in 70-plus markets puts more pressure on cable ops to enhance their existing DOCSIS 3.1 network or accelerate their upgrade activity centered on the new DOCSIS 4.0 specs.