Telekom CEO argues for strong No. 3 player in U.S. wireless market: newspaper

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – A strong No. 3 player in the U.S. wireless market would enhance competition, the chief of Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE) told a German newspaper, as T-Mobile US Inc (TMUS.O) seeks to merge with Sprint Corp (S.N).

Timotheus Hoettges, Chief Executive Officer of Germany’s telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom AG poses for a picture at the Cyber Defense and Security Operation Center (SOC) of Telekom Security in Bonn October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Chief executive officer Timotheus Hoettges also urged the new German government to think twice before selling down its large stake in Deutsche Telekom, according to an interview in Welt am Sonntag.

T-Mobile US, majority-owned by Deutsche Telekom, is close to agreeing tentative terms on a deal to merge with Sprint Corp, people familiar with the matter have said, a breakthrough in efforts to merge the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers.

Hoettges, in the interview published on Sunday, declined to comment directly on talks between the companies.

“In the U.S. there is a duopoly between two very big players, and then there are two smaller players well behind,” he said. “A third strong player would be good for competition.”

Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and AT&T Inc (T.N) are the two largest wireless carriers.

Competition regulators have in the past quashed consolidation efforts by T-Mobile, but Hoettges said chances are now better under U.S. President Donald Trump.

“History has taught us that governments led by Republicans are more hands-off than Democratic administrations,” he said.

On the German state’s nearly 32 percent stake in Deutsche Telekom, Hoettges acknowledged it would be the new government’s decision whether to sell or keep.

But he said those who argued for a sale “should perhaps ask themselves who will buy the stake”.

“What interest would the owner have in infrastructure security? Would the owner want to invest in Germany, and if so, where and in particular, how much?”

The FDP and Green parties, which are in talks to form a coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, have both advocated a sale or partial sale of the stake.

Reporting by Tom Sims and Douglas Busvine; editing by John Stonestreet

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Boeing-backed, electric-hybrid airliner set to hit market in 2022

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Seattle-area startup backed by the venture arms of Boeing Co and JetBlue Airways Corp plans to bring a small hybrid-electric airliner to market by 2022 that can dramatically reduce the travel time and cost of trips under 1,000 miles (1,600 km), it said on Thursday.

The first of several aircraft planned by Zunum Aero would seat up to 12 passengers and be powered by two electric motors.

Electric-vehicle batteries, such as those made by Tesla Inc and Panasonic Corp, would power the motor. A supplemental gas engine and electrical generator would be used to give the plane a range of 700 miles, Matt Knapp, co-founder and chief aeronautic engineer of the Kirkland, Washington-based company, said in an interview.

Zunum has no commitment to Tesla or Panasonic.

A larger plane seating up to 50 passengers would follow at the end of the next decade, and the range of both would increase to about 1,000 miles as battery technology improves, Knapp said.

The planes eventually would fly solely on battery power, and are being designed to fly with one pilot and to eventually be remotely piloted, he added.

Several companies, including Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] and European planemaker Airbus, are working on intra-urban electric-powered self-flying cars.

Zunum does not expect to be the first to certify an electric-powered aircraft with regulators. It is aiming to fill a market for regional travel for airlines, where private jets and commercial jetliners are too costly for many to use.

“Airlines are very keen to know how to fly a shorter distance and make money on it,” Knapp said.

Recent advances in electric-vehicle and autonomous technology, along with lightweight electric motors and carbon composite airframes would reduce the cost of flying Zunum’s aircraft to about 8 cents per seat-mile, about one-fifth that of a small jet or turboprop plane, Knapp said.

“We’re getting airline pricing down on a small plane and doing it for short distances,” Knapp said. “That kind of aircraft doesn’t currently exist.”

Zunum announced plans for electric-hybrid aircraft in April, and revealed that Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue Technology Ventures had invested in its initial round of venture funding. On Thursday it disclosed specifications and a timetable for the vehicle entering service.

Zunum says the plane would cruise at about 340 miles an hour and at altitudes of about 25,000 feet (7,600 meters) – slower and lower than jets.

The plane would cut travel time by allowing passengers to fly from thousands of regional airports, avoiding big hubs used by major airlines and airport security required for larger planes. About 96 percent of U.S. air traffic travels through 1 percent of its airports, Zunum said.

Current battery technology can only power the plane for about 100 miles so a gas-powered engine is used to generate electricity to power the motors for additional range.

Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Susan Thomas

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Free-to-play is preparing to swarm into the virtual reality market

Game developers have an opportunity to set price expectations for virtual reality games, but as with mobile, the industry will probably decide the price for a new game download is … nothing.

Free-to-play gaming is coming to virtual reality, a panel of developers and VR experts said during a panel at the Game Developers Conference today in San Francisco. Right now, many studios expect consumers to have a lot of demand and money to spend on virtual experiences and games. This has led to products like AirMech — a free-to-play release for PC — coming out later this month for Oculus Rift at $ 40. But that trend of charging more for games on VR because they’re new and novel probably won’t last as studios experienced in the mobile market flood app stores for Samsung’s Gear VR, Google’s Cardboard, and more with games that are free to download.

Analysts at tech adviser Digi-Capital expect VR to generate around $ 30 billion in spending by 2020, and a business model that’s reminiscent of Clash of Clans or League of Legends could fuel the climb to that milestone.

“This is an early market,” Immersv chief executive Mihir Shah said during a panel at GDC. “But it already has millions of daily active gamers.”

Immersv launched a VR ad platform earlier this month that helps studios generate revenue by adding video trailers to free-to-play VR games. These ads are either 360-degree videos or played on a 2D screen in a simulated theater. Shah noted that more than 80 percent of the people watching these ads end up finishing them, which is nearly double the completion rate of video ads in mobile games. And each person is watching an average of four of these commercials.

This creates a market where developers could make 5-to-8 cents from each one of their daily active players (ARPDAU). With Google, Samsung, and more planning to implement in-app purchases in their VR platforms, that number is going to balloon quickly.

“You don’t need 50 million daily active users to start building a business,” said Shah. “And that’s before microtransactions.”

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