A Foolish Week of Telecom


The blockbuster news of the week came from Comcast's announcement it would buy up General Electric's 49% share of their joint venture, NBCUniversal, for $16.7 billion.

Noteworthy is that the purchase will occur well ahead of schedule. Comcast bought its 51% share in 2011 and planned on buying the rest of the company over seven years.

One of the reasons for the shortened buyout timeline was a clashing of corporate cultures, according to The New York Times. Comcast's more low-key approach just didn't mesh well with GE's style, the Times reports employees and television executives saying.

You say iPhone, I say iphone, they say Ifone
In Brazil this week, Apple lost what it thought was the inalienable right to its iPhone trademark. The Brazilian regulatory agency, the Institute of Industrial Property, denied Apple's claim on exclusive rights to the iPhone name in Brazil.

Apple had originally applied for that right in 2007, but Gradiente SA, a Brazilian company, had beaten Apple to the punch when it applied to register the brand "Gradiente iphone" in 2000.

But Apple is planning to challenge Gradiente. The Brazilian company has 60 days to prove that it met Brazilian rules by actively used the trademark within the five year period starting in January 2008 -- the time it was issued the trademark -- and January 2013.

And just south of the border in 2012, Apple lost out in a trademark battle with Mexican telecom Ifone.

No, duh
It has taken AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson a year to admit it, but he finally did. During an interview at the Flatirons Center's Digital Broadband Migration conference in Boulder, Colorado, Stephenson let this out regarding AT&T's failed attempt to buy T-Mobile USA: "I wouldn't say it was a bad decision, but it was a decision that didn't go the way I wanted. We didn't execute well."

Stephenson said the $39 billion deal, which was foiled by Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice opposition, was one of his low points of his CEO tenure.

He did add, however, that one of his best decisions was AT&T going with the iPhone in 2007. "We were betting on Steve Jobs. And time has proven that to be a good bet," he said.

Polishing the apple
Google didn't become the default search engine for Apple's iOS mobile operating system for its performance alone. Google has to pay Apple for that privilege, and in 2014 that tariff could float above $1 billion.

In 2009, Google's bill was only $82 million, according to a Morgan Stanley note, as reported by TechCrunch.

Apple also benefits from the lion's share of a 75/25 splitting of any revenue derived from traffic going to Google.

Not a telecom -- an adventure movie
DISH Network chairman Charlie Ergen, taking exception to his company being characterized as "The Meanest Company in America" (by Businessweek), and "America's Worst Company to Work For" (by glassdoor.com), got his chance to put DISH's case to the world.

At AllThingsD's D: Dive Into Media conference, Ergen said:

There are only two kinds of employees that I've run across in 30 years. There are ones that get results, and ones that make excuses. If you're in that second camp, you're not going to like DISH.

But if you've got what it takes, he said, working at DISH would never be boring.

"It takes a lot of guts to work at this company," said Ergen. "We're a little bit like an Indiana Jones movie, where we're always in trouble and we always get out of it. We're going from alligators to arrows to snakes."

Oh, my!

Best promo ever -- or worst
One of Sprint Nextel's prepaid brands, Virgin Mobile, rolled the dice this week on an anti-Valentine's Day promotion to bring "people across the country the incentive to finally break free from a bad relationship."

To make breakin' up an easier thing to do, Virgin Mobile declared Feb. 13 "National Breakup Day" and offered a NBD smartphone discount.

But if a potential customer wanted to break up with more than their cell phone -- let's say a significant other -- Virgin Mobile lined a dating service up, too: It hooked up with OkCupid to help would-be breaker-uppers do some multitasking.

So if you think something is up with your honey, don't look for lipstick on the collar -- just watch out for a new Virgin Mobile smartphone.

Another farewell for BlackBerry
As of the end of 2012, Jim Balsillie no longer owned any shares in Research In Motion, now known as BlackBerry , according to an SEC filing.

The brief filing only states that Balsillie, who was once the co-CEO, no longer possesses any shares in the company. A previous filing showed that at the end of 2011 he was the third largest individual shareholder in RIM, with slightly more than 5% of the company.

Balsillie's former co-CEO, Mike Lazaridis, is still a significant shareholder, with 5.7% of the company and is still on the board of directors.

There's a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.

The article A Foolish Week of Telecom originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Dan Radovsky owns shares of General Electric and AT&T. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, General Electric, and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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