The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has said it needs more time and information to consider the merger between TPG and Vodafone Australia, with the consumer watchdog saying it is unclear as yet whether it would substantially lessen competition in the telecommunications market.
The ACCC released a statement of issues on Friday morning outlining concerns it has over TPG not becoming Australia’s fourth mobile carrier. It is also looking into the long-term mobile impact as 5G begins to be deployed.
“Our preliminary view is that TPG is currently on track to become the fourth mobile network operator in Australia, and as such it’s likely to be an aggressive competitor,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“We therefore have preliminary concerns that removing TPG as a new independent competitor with its own network, in what is a concentrated market for mobile services, would be likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition.
“If TPG remains separate from Vodafone, it appears likely to need to continue to adopt an aggressive pricing strategy, offering cheap mobile plans with large data allowances. Our preliminary view is the merged TPG-Vodafone would not have the incentive to operate in the same way.”
The ACCC said it would also look into whether removing Vodafone as a fixed broadband competitor would impact competition.
“Although Vodafone is currently a relatively minor player in fixed broadband, we consider it may become an increasingly effective competitor because of its high level of brand recognition and existing retail mobile customer base,” Sims added.
However, Vodafone said it remains confident the merger will be approved in the first half of 2019.
“This proposed merger is a significant transaction, and we respect the need for the ACCC to make a carefully considered decision, so today’s announcement wasn’t unexpected,” Vodafone CEO Inaki Berroeta said on Friday morning.
“Customers will be the big winners of a proposed merger between VHA and TPG Telecom, and we’ll continue to engage with the ACCC as we have done over recent months.
“Increased investment requires increased scale, and the proposed merger will enable the merged entity to take competition in the market to the next level.
“The merged company will have significantly increased ability to invest in networks, new technologies, and competitive plans and products for Australian customers.”
The Statement of Issues [PDF] (https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/public-registers/documents/Statement%20of%20Issues%20-%2013%20December%202018.pdf) says the ACCC is concerned that there would be higher prices and more restrictive conditions for wholesale services in the mobile market, and higher prices and lower-quality services including lower data inclusions or poor performance across retail fixed broadband.
“The ACCC is also considering whether when 5G mobile technology becomes commercially available in the near future, TPG and VHA may, in the absence of the merger, compete in a market for retail broadband services using either mobile or fixed networks (retail home broadband services),” the ACCC added.
“In this case, the proposed merger may substantially lessen competition in that market.”
The ACCC is accepting submissions until January 18, 2019, on the extent to which wholesale and retail customers think the “geographically limited network” proposed by TPG will be a viable alternative to existing mobile networks; whether TPG and Vodafone would compete against each other in fixed and/or mobile services if the merger is not approved; whether the merger would limit MVNOs in accessing wholesale mobile services; and whether Vodafone would gain an advantage in providing retail home broadband services in comparison to other new entrants.
The ACCC is anticipating making a final decision on March 28.
Earlier this week, the TPG-Vodafone joint venture Mobile JV had announced winning 131 lots of 5G spectrum in the 3.6GHz auction hosted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), paying over AU$263 million for the holdings across metro and regional areas.
Berroeta said winning the spectrum would allow the merged company to continue preparing for 5G, but said the federal government should make more 5G spectrum available.
“We have been preparing for the evolution to 5G for several years, and the acquisition of spectrum licences in metropolitan, outer metropolitan, and regional areas brings 5G another step closer to reality,” Berroeta said.
“The 60MHz holdings the JV has secured in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra give us a strong 5G spectrum capability in each of these major cities.”
“We are in the final stages of virtualising VHA’s core network. We have completed our dark fibre transmission rollout and are finalising our detailed infrastructure planning, while leveraging the expertise of our global shareholders.
“Launching a new generation mobile network is a multi-layered evolutionary process which involves much more than putting some new antennas on poles, and we are progressing all elements of our 5G plans.”
TPG-Vodafone acquired 12 lots each in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, and Adelaide; three lots in Perth lower band; nine in Perth upper band; eight each in North Queensland, Central Queensland, Regional Northern NSW/Southern Queensland, Regional Victoria, and Tasmania; six in Regional Southern/Western NSW; four in Regional South Australia; and nine in Regional Western Australia.
The news followed Sims telling Senate Estimates in October that while allowing Vodafone and TPG to jointly bid for 5G spectrum would reduce competition during the auction, it will have the opposite effect for the telecommunications market.
TPG CEO David Teoh had in August said a merged entity combining his company with Vodafone Hutchison Australia would be “very aggressive”, with the new telco to possibly provide better pricing on bundled fixed and mobile offers than its previously announced AU$9.99 a month plans.
“With the merger of the two companies, I think we are going to be a leading challenger, and we are going to be very aggressive; we are going to bring value to the consumer,” Teoh said.
“We have put a lot of money in the spectrum and in the planning on our start to roll out a very dense mobile network.”
TPG and Vodafone Australia in August announced that they would proceed with their merger — after confirming a week earlier that they had entered discussions — to form a telecommunications giant that they say will have an enterprise value of around AU$15 billion.
The new TPG would see Vodafone Australia CEO Inaki Berroeta serve as CEO and Teoh as chair, and will produce revenue of AU$6 billion, EBITDA of AU$1.8 billion, and have an operating free cash flow of AU$900 million, the companies claimed.
It would be owned 50.1 percent by Vodafone Australia shareholders and 49.9 percent by TPG shareholders, and is expected to hold 20 percent of the Australian mobile market and 22 percent of the fixed-line broadband market upon merging.
“The merger will create a more effective challenger to Telstra and Optus, with an integrated fixed and mobile offering and a pro forma enterprise value of approximately AU$15 billion,” the companies said.
The merger remains dependent on shareholder and regulatory approvals.
TPG has also given required notification to the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC); completed its Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) application; and lodged formal notification to Singapore’s Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA).
In July, Vodafone posted a first-half net loss of AU$92.3 million on revenue of AU$1.8 billion. TPG’s full-year net profit for FY18 was AU$397 million, while revenue remained stagnant at almost AU$2.5 billion for the year.
TPG’s Singapore operations will be spun off into a separate company, with the telco set to launch Singapore’s fourth mobile network by the end of 2018.
Updated at 9.45am AEDT, December 13: Added further detail on Statement of Issues
2021 Cadillac CT5 Review: Personality Matters
For all the luxury sedan segment may be dwarfed by sales of lavish SUVs, that hasn’t made the category any less competitive. On the one side, the German mainstays bring reputation and refinement to the party; on the other, comparative upstarts like Genesis, Lexus, and Acura claw back attention with imaginative risk-taking. What to make, then, of the 2021 Cadillac CT5 somewhere in the middle?
I like Cadillac’s styling, with the CT5’s blend of angles and LEDs making for a handsome sedan from most angles. As with the most recent Escalade, the CT5 isn’t quite as vocal in its aesthetic as its predecessor: the grille feels like it could be a little larger; the side proportions a little beefier. 18-inch alloys are standard, with 19- and 20-inch versions available. I’d say step up at least one size, as the regular wheels look a little small to my eyes.
The 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, and is good for 360 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque. They’re certainly healthy numbers, and a fair sight more than the 237 hp / 258 lb-ft the standard 2.0-liter turbo-four delivers.
What you can only get on the CT5 V-Series, though, is Cadillac’s upgraded performance suspension and Magnetic Ride Control. The electronic limited-slip differential and Performance Traction Management system are exclusive to the V, too.
It leaves the regular CT5 with independent MacPherson strut front suspension and independent 5-link rear, and it’s all tuned on the soft side. Where the V-Series can flip from comfort to sport at the touch of a drive mode button, switching between Tour and Sport in the standard car is less dramatic. The 10-speed holds lower gears for longer, and the engine sounds louder, but it doesn’t have the sharpened dynamics which leave the CT5-V feeling poised and eager.
The multi-valve dampers on the CT5 simply aren’t so adaptable. It’s not that the sedan can’t hustle, it just doesn’t really encourage that. Long-distance cruising would be a joy in this Caddy, and pickup in a straight line is as urgent as the power figures would lead you to expect. Where some luxury sedans encourage leaving the family at home and playing on the backroads occasionally, though, the CT5 just doesn’t inspire the same.
Doubling down on that road trip ethos is the interior. The CT5’s cabin has plenty of space – for passengers, at least, though the 11.9 cu-ft trunk is a little small – and there’s no shortage of equipment. Premium Luxury trim comes with 14-way power front seats, leather, keyless start, a wireless phone charger, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and ambient lighting as standard. You get rear parking assistance and cross traffic alerts, forward collision alerts, blind zone warnings, and front pedestrian braking too. That’s all for $40,795.
As well as $3.5k for the V6 and $2k for all-wheel drive, my test car had the $1,350 navigation and Bose 15-speaker audio, the $1,090 Climate Package with heated and ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel, and the $600 Lighting Package with LED cornering headlamps and illuminated sill plates. $500 adds auto high-beams, lane-keep assistance, and following distance indicator, and $625 gets the Dark Moon Metallic paint. In all, with $995 destination, you’re looking at $51,455.
All the pieces are there, but I wish there was a little more oomph in how they were put together. The CT5’s cabin seems solid and the switchgear generally feels sturdy, but there’s little of the aesthetic consideration that rivals deliver. Shared parts with the rest of GM’s brands, combined with sober finishes that border on dour, feel neither special nor particularly luxurious.
It all works, it just doesn’t go beyond that to delight. Cadillac’s infotainment system feels like just what you’d find in a recent Chevy or GMC (because, funnily enough, it is) whereas the new Escalade serves up something a lot more unique. The chromed switchgear is too clearly plastic when you touch it, while the 10-inch touchscreen looks tagged on rather than integrated. A fully-digital driver’s display is optional, but the smaller standard panel – sandwiched between analog dials – could benefit from nicer graphics. Again, it does the job, it just doesn’t make itself memorable.
Super Cruise is finally available on the CT5, though the $2,500 option was absent from my test car. It’s the enhanced version, too, which can automatically change lanes for you. Honestly, if I was buying a CT5, it’s the option that would be top of my list.
As for economy, the V6 with AWD is EPA rated for 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, for 21 mpg combined. Conspicuous by its glaring absence is any sort of electrification; for a Caddy EV we’ll have to wait for the Lyriq crossover, which is still some way out.
2021 Cadillac CT5 Verdict
So many of my complaints about the CT5 could be boiled down to “just commit more, Cadillac.” There are hints at greatness throughout, but it seldom quite feels like the automaker goes the whole way and delivers on them. The styling is handsome but falls short of gravitas; the cabin is spacious and well-equipped, but feels bland; and the driving dynamics, especially with the twin-turbo V6, are promising yet not quite as engaging as the sum of the parts would lead you to expect.
That adds up to a problem, because rivals aren’t making the same mistakes. BMW’s 3 Series is more engaging, Genesis’ G70 takes more styling risks, and Mercedes’ C-Class has more comfort. Importantly, all three are just more memorable than the CT5.
Cadillac is quick to point out that its sedan is aggressively priced compared to its competitors, particularly the Germans, and that it outweighs them on things like power and standard equipment. Problem is, in focusing on comparisons, the CT5 has forgotten to factor in Cadillac’s own inherent charm: that singularly American presence and borderline-excess. The result is a car that’s good in many ways, but not great, and that’s just not enough in this segment to rise above the crowd.
Lincoln Zephyr Reflection is the bold car design we’ve been waiting for
Lincoln has revealed its latest concept car, and the Zephyr Reflection is a striking reminder that “American Luxury” can be darn handsome too. Unveiled at Auto Shanghai 2021, the shapely sedan is focused entirely on Chinese tastes, Lincoln says, and pushes beyond some of the more monolithic cues of the automaker’s current line-up.
The goal, Lincoln claims, was to draw in a younger audience. The grille gets a starburst pattern, and is considerably larger than usual, extending into the leading edge of the hood and down deep into the lower fascia.
It’s bisected with a line that links the narrow headlamps, and then trails back into the sharply creased shoulder-line. Flush door handles and high-end trim like tinted chrome, copper, and satin silver add some sparkle, while a trunk-spanning light bar joins the slimline clusters. A blacked-out A-pillar give the Zephyr Reflection a profile like no other Lincoln sedan in the range right now.
The automaker has been thinking about lighting a lot, it seems, with new welcome patterns and ambient lighting promised. The same goes inside, with glowing controls that only appear on touch-surfaces when they’re required. A huge, dashboard-spanning display dominates the dashboard, and can be split into three virtual sections.
As for the UX, that’s a new system being called Lincoln Constellation. Themed around the night sky, it’ll have three different versions – Normal, Sport, and Zen – each with unique animations and graphics.
What Zephyr Reflection doesn’t appear to be, however, is anything more than a styling exercise at this stage. Lincoln’s announcement is conspicuously absent of any sort of powertrain discussion, instead focusing entirely on the design of the sedan. That “hints at the future of Lincoln’s design philosophy and signature features ahead of the production model debut later this year,” the automaker says.
China is aggressively pushing EV adoption – and, indeed, Lincoln is using Auto Shanghai 2021 to debut the locally-produced version of its Corsair PHEV there – but though we’re expecting full-electric Lincoln news soon, it doesn’t seem like the Zephyr Reflection will be the model for that. Indeed, look closely at the dashboard display render, and there’s clearly a little gas pump icon there, suggesting this is a PHEV at best.
Of course, trying to read into production plans from a concept car is usually a shortcut to confusion, and so we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out Lincoln’s actual production plans. Certainly, sedans are still popular in the Chinese market, as is the concept of “American Luxury” itself, meaning whatever the Zephyr Reflection evolves into will likely be more of a hit there than it would be in Lincoln’s home market.
Genesis Electrified G80 is more than just a luxury EV sedan
Genesis promised us an all-electric model, and now we get to see just what that is, with the Electrified G80 giving the luxury automaker its first pure EV. Unveiled at Auto Shanghai 2021 today, it takes the well-received G80 sedan and gives it an all-wheel drive electric makeover.
Gone is the usual choice of 2.5-liter or 3.5-liter turbocharged gas engines, and indeed the rear-wheel drive option. However the Electrified G80 can switch between RWD and AWD depending on road conditions, with a Disconnector Actuator System (DAS) selectively decoupling the drive shaft.
The result is 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds, Genesis says, in AWD mode. As for range, on the NEDC test you’re looking at over 310 miles, though we’d expect the US EPA numbers to be lower than that. Something that’s particularly impressive is 350 kW DC fast charging support which – if you find a suitably potent charger – could mean going from 10-percent to 80-percent in 22 minutes.
The underlying architecture supports 400/800V switchable modes, to suit different charger types. Just as exciting, though, is the inclusion of V2L (Vehicle to Load) support, effectively turning the Electrified G80 into a huge battery on wheels that’s capable of powering a home in the case of a grid outage or similar. In that situation, Genesis says, the EV can deliver 3.6 kW – more, it suggests, than the typical household requires.
On the outside, the changes from the internal combustion G80 are subtle. The Crest Grille switches from its usual mesh, with an inverted G-Matrix pattern instead. In the upper right corner is a door for the charging port; open that, and as well as a place to plug in, you’ll also find some Two Lines chrome detailing to harmonize with the exterior styling.
Inside, meanwhile, Genesis has blended traditional materials with some eco-minded treatments. There’s natural dyed leather on the seats, console, and rear seat armrest, for example, while the wood uses recycled timber. Recycled PET – the sort of plastic used in water bottles – features in other fabrics.
The GV80 SUV donates its Active Noise Control-Road system, which promises extra cabin hush by analyzing road noise and then creating opposite sound waves to cancel it out. There’s also Genesis’ Electronic Control Suspension with Road Preview system, which uses a front-facing camera to scan the asphalt ahead and preemptively adjust the suspension settings to iron out potholes and bumps.
Though Genesis is debuting the Electrified G80 in China – its first vehicle launch, it points out, outside of South Korea – it will be bringing the EV to the US and Canada, it’s confirmed. More information on localized specifications for that version will be shared later in the year, Genesis says, in addition to news on the other BEVs the automaker has planned.
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