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Verizon Q3 solid as 5G ramps, but Oath is becoming a drag

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Verizon’s third quarter was better-than-expected as the company said its 5G rollout is on schedule. However, Verizon is managing an underperforming Oath media unit, video FiOS defections and intense wireless competition.

The telecom giant reported third quarter earnings of $1.19 a share and $1.22 a share on a non-GAAP basis. Revenue from the third quarter checked in at $32.6 billion, up 2.8 percent from a year ago. Verizon said it added 515,000 retail postpaid net additions and had a 0.80 customer churn.

Wall Street was looking for earnings of $1.19 a share on revenue of $31.72 billion.

Verizon’s results were interesting since the company is prepping for 5G and value added services for consumers and enterprises yet trying to navigate the company’s acquisitions of AOL and Yahoo. CEO Hans Vestberg said the company is “investing in networks” and “best positioned to take full advantage” of 5G.

Also: Ericsson: 5G a ‘commercial reality’ as networks sales rise | Edge Computing: The 2 things tech leaders should know

CFO Matt Ellis said on a conference call:

At Verizon, we believe that true 5G requires an ultra-wideband solution utilizing millimeterwave spectrum to address the full array of use cases that 5G enables. Our network preparation for nationwide 5G deployment requires deep fiber resources, a vast array of small cells, critical spectrum holdings, and mobile edge computing capabilities, all of which we have been assembling for years.

The telecom giant is in a race to build out its 5G network as T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T have similar plans. Verizon’s launch of 5G Home, which runs on proprietary standards for now, has started installs and Ellis said the company will learn and iterate as 5G Home rolls out.

I will add that we started doing installs earlier this month. And we’ve seen performance as we’ve expected since we started doing those installs. The technology works, our customers are getting the experience they expected, and we are getting a lot of good learning which will benefit us next year when we roll out the product to that much larger audience.

5G Home will become more significant as we expand coverage and we get on the global standards equipment in 2019. And I would expect that that would start to have an impact on consolidated revenues as we get into 2020 and beyond.

Here’s a look at the moving parts.

The good

  • Wireless revenue was $23 billion, up 6.5 percent from a year ago. Service revenue was up 0.8 percent from a year ago. Customers are upgrading to higher access plans and adding connections.
  • Verizon added 515,000 retail postpaid net additions in the third quarter. Verizon added 510,000 smartphone adds, lost 80,000 tablets and added 300,000 other connected devices such as wearables.
verizon-q3-2018-metrics.png
  • Verizon’s telematics business, known as Verizon Connect, had revenue of $241 million in the third quarter with IoT revenue up 12 percent. Verizon’s telematics unit is now on an almost $1 billion annual revenue run rate.
  • The company is on track to save $10 billion by 2021.
  • Verizon rolled out 5G Home, deployed more fiber and is positioning for more 5G services. Year-to-date capital spending was $12 billion.
  • FiOS revenue for the third quarter was $3 billion, up 1.6 percent from a year ago. FiOS Internet connections saw 54,000 net adds in the third quarter.

Also see: What is 5G? Everything you need to know about the new wireless revolution | 5G technology: A business leader’s guide (Tech Pro Research) | All 5G stories | CNET: 5G is almost a reality. Here’s what it’ll really feel like

The bad

  • Oath revenue in the third quarter was $1.8 billion, down 6.9 percent from a year ago. Verizon said: “The company expects Oath revenues to be relatively flat in the near term and does not expect to meet the previous target of $10 billion in Oath revenues by 2020.”

Ellis noted that Oath business is tied to desktop and search and that’s a challenge for the business. He added:

The leadership team at Oath is focused on returning to revenue growth by completing the integration of the legacy AOL and Yahoo advertising platforms by year-end, implementing initiatives to realize synergies across all of our media assets, and building services around our core content pillars of sports, news, finance, and entertainment. Additionally, we are utilizing Oath’s technical capabilities, such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality across all of Verizon.

  • Verizon lost 63,000 FiOS Video connections.
  • Wireline had an operating loss of $50 million.

As for the outlook, Verizon said it will post revenue growth in the low- to mid-single digits on a percentage basis. The company also projected capital spending to be between $16.6 billion to $17 billion for 2018. That cap-ex guidance was lower than expected. Ellis said:

We are seeing the benefits of some changes in how we run that organization, using new capacity utilization models, changes to our inventory management systems, adoption of procurement analytical tools, and a whole host of other things.

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The 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL is beautifully powerful

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The first Mercedes-Benz SL debuted nearly seven decades ago in Germany and was a success in both racing and sales to the public. Mercedes-AMG has launched the latest 2022 SL in the line, and the car has been completely reborn. Mercedes says its new sporty car combines genes from the original SL along with modern AMG driving performance.

The car has features characteristic of its SL lineage with a long wheelbase, short overhangs, long hood, the passenger compartment set well back on the chassis with a steeply raked windshield. The grille of the new SL was designed specifically to emphasize the width of the front and features 14 vertical slats as a design element linking the new car to SLs of the past, specifically the 300 SL racing car from 1952.

Mercedes also integrates LED headlamps with sharp outlines and slim LED rear lamps. The interior is designed around a theme of performance luxury with something Mercedes-AMG calls a “hyper analog” cockpit. As one would expect inside of a Mercedes-AMG vehicle, only the best materials and quality can be seen to bring the highest level of comfort, style, and performance. The interior of the 300 SL Roadster is minimalist and features an adjustable center display located in the center console that’s focused on the driver.

The vehicle is a 2+2, and the seats bring more functionality than in SLs of the past. Of particular note, the rear seats are designed for daily practicality and usable space. The interior design combines what Mercedes calls analog geometry and the digital world to create the “hyper analog” design that’s attractive and functional without overwhelming.

The instrument panel is fully digital and features the standard MBUX infotainment system with a choice of multiple display styles and different modes. The electrically adjustable AMG sports seats have a sculptural design. Mercedes fits the Roadster with its AIRSCARF neck-level heating system as standard to blow warm air into the passenger compartment from outlets in the head restraints of the seats for driver and passenger. The goal is to allow the owner to drop the top and enjoy fresh air even if it’s cold out.

Mercedes-AMG designed the body of the SL utilizing a completely new 2+2 seat vehicle architecture designed to be as lightweight as possible utilizing composite aluminum and an aluminum space frame with a self-supporting structure. In addition, the design of the chassis provides maximum rigidity for precision driving, comfort, and sporty proportions. No components of the body or structure of the car are carried over from the past generation SL or any other AMG model.

Compared to the previous SL series, the torsional rigidity of the body shell is 18 percent higher, transverse rigidity is 50 percent higher than the AMG GT Roadster, and longitudinal rigidity is 40 percent higher. The body shell alone weighs 595 pounds making a lightweight yet strong structure. Aerodynamics is also a focus for the vehicle design providing a drag coefficient of 0.31, which Mercedes says is excellent for an open-air sports car. For the first time, Mercedes has also integrated an AIRPANEL air control system with two pieces for improved aerodynamics. The first piece has vertical louvers hidden beneath the lower air intake in the front bumper. The second component is behind the upper air intake and has horizontal louvers. In normal operation, all louvers are closed, reducing drag allowing air to be directed to the car’s underbody, reducing front-end lift. However, when temperatures on predefined components reach a specific number and the car needs cooling air, louvers open to allow maximum cooling to the heat exchangers.

The rear spoiler is integrated into the trunk lid and is active, changing position depending on driving status. To determine the ideal position, software controlling the spoiler factors in driving speed, longitudinal and lateral acceleration, and steering speed. Considering all that data, the splitter can adjust through five different angular positions starting at 50 mph to optimize handling or reduce drag.

Buyers can choose the optional AMG Aerodynamics Package adding an active element hidden in the underbody in front of the engine to contribute to handling. The active element is a carbon profile weighing 4.4 pounds that reacts to AMG driving modes and extends downward to about 1.6 inches at 50 mph. The carbon profile component creates a Venturi effect to suck the car to the road surface and reduce front-axle lift. In addition, Mercedes AMG offers a range of aerodynamically optimized wheels in 20, or 21-inch diameters, including 20-inch wheels with plastic aero rings to save weight.

The SL also has a soft top optimized for lightweight and low center of gravity that replaces the previous metal vario roof. Moving back to a soft-top, Mercedes shaved 46 pounds and lowered the center of gravity for the all-new SL. Another interesting feature is that the soft top has a weight-saving z-fold mechanism that allowed Mercedes to dispense with a conventional soft-top compartment cover. The soft top is flush with the surface in its final position.

One of the highlights of any Mercedes-AMG vehicle is the engine. Mercedes-AMG continues with its “One Man, One Engine” principle with each SL engine built completely by one tech by hand. The SL offers two output levels of an AMG 4.0-liter V-8 biturbo engine. In the SL 63, which is the high-end model, the engine makes 577 horsepower and 590 pound-foot of torque. Fitted with that engine, the SL can reach 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. In the SL 55, the V-8 makes 469 horsepower and 516 pound-foot of torque. When fitted with that engine, the SL can reach 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. A performance hybrid version is in development.

Both engines are paired with an AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 9G transmission featuring a wet start-off clutch that replaces the torque converter for lower weight and optimized response. Both SL models feature AMG Performance 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive standard. The SL 55 has a newly developed AMG RIDE CONTROL steel suspension featuring aluminum shock absorbers and lightweight coil springs. This is also the first production Mercedes-AMG vehicle utilizing a multi-link front axle with five links that are arranged entirely inside the wheel rim. The SL 63 uses AMG ACTIVE RIDE CONTROL suspension with active hydraulic anti-roll stabilization debuting in the model.

Another first for the new SL is active rear-axle steering that can turn the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the front at certain speeds to improve handling. The SL has six different driving modes, including slippery, comfort, sport, sport+, individual, and race. The race mode is standard on the SL 63 and optional with the AMG DYNAMIC PLUS package for the SL 55. The SL 63 also has a standard AMG TRACK PACE data logging system for use on the racetrack, and the system is optional for the SL 55. The system can also be fitted with an optional dash cam to record video complete with overlaid data for lap times, speed, acceleration, and more. Pricing and availability on the new Mercedes-AMG SL are unannounced at this time.

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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV combines efficiency and all-wheel drive

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Mitsubishi has premiered its redesigned plug-in hybrid Outlander crossover SUV. The Outlander PHEV will go on sale in Japan on December 16 and will land in Australia and New Zealand in the first half of 2022. Mitsubishi does plan on bringing the Outlander PHEV to North America in the second half of 2022.

Mitsubishi promises the crossover will have low CO2 emissions and a low environmental impact in terms of its lifecycle assessment. The all-new model has significant upgrades compared to previous versions. It utilizes a new PHEV system with more powerful road performance and a longer electric driving range.

Its all-wheel-drive system delivers safety and comfortable driving no matter the weather or road conditions. Mitsubishi also designed the vehicle with an attractive exterior and what it calls an “advanced, high-class interior.” The Outlander PHEV has an increase of about 40 percent total output for the front and rear electric motors and drive battery. That allows the model to drive in EV mode and avoid using the internal combustion engine as much as possible.

The system can operate on pure electricity even under hard acceleration. The drive battery has a total capacity of 20 kilowatts and delivers an all-electric range of 87 kilometers. Along with driving range, Mitsubishi promises optimized electric operation even with the air-conditioning on. Mitsubishi integrated a larger gas tank to expand the total driving range of the vehicle.

Outlander has a seven-passenger seating layout, and the control unit for the vehicle is outside the passenger compartment for improved quietness during use. The vehicle’s Super All Wheel Control vehicle dynamics control system is based on a twin-motor 4WD system with one drive motor in the front and another in the rear. The vehicle has seven drive modes, including Eco and Power. Mitsubishi promises that trim levels and pricing for the Outlander PHEV in the US will be announced closer to the on-sale date in the second half of 2022.

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The Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost is payoff from a high-stakes luxury gamble

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Back when Rolls-Royce unveiled the Ghost last year, it described the luxury sedan as “Post Opulent” design. Now, it’s giving the V12 car a sinister twist. The Black Badge Ghost joins the ranks of Rolls-Royce’s wildly successful Black Badge series, getting distinctive styling, an uptick in power, and a very particular appeal.

You could make a solid argument that Black Badge and Ghost really were made for each other. Both have proved to be wildly popular: Ghost may have launched in the midst of a global pandemic, but it was still Rolls-Royce’s most successful debut so far in terms of demand.

Similarly, though the automaker expected perhaps 10-15 percent of orders to be Black Badge models when it launched the sub-brand five years ago – and, indeed, faced some consternation that the customizations might dilute Rolls-Royce’s cachet – sales have significantly outpaced those conservative estimates. A full 40-percent of Cullinan SUVs are now ordered as Black Badge models, for example. Expectations for the Black Badge Ghost, then, are even higher.

The 6.75-liter V12 engine is kept, of course, but tuned for 591 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque. A “regular” Ghost offers 563 hp and 627 lb-ft. 0-60 mph arrives in 4.5 seconds, while top speed is an electronically-limited 155 mph. Not bad at all for a four-door which still tips the scales at almost 5,500 pounds.

Rolls-Royce has paired the extra power with retuning of the eight-speed transmission. Peak torque arrives at just 1,700 rpm; switch to Low Mode and the gearshifts are completed in half the time. There’s custom mapping for the front and rear axle steering, too, and bigger air springs to ensure the “magic carpet” ride keeps up with more enthusiastic drivers.

What first grabs you, of course, is the styling. The Ghost was off to a good start there, taking elements of Phantom and reimagining them for a smaller, more lithe sedan. The rear-hinged back doors, upright grille, and Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament remain, only now they’ve been paired with a darker, moodier palette of colors and finishes.

Though Rolls-Royce will happily complete your Black Badge Ghost in any of its paints, or indeed mix you up a custom hue, there’s also the “signature black” of the Black Badge label. Dubbed the auto industry’s darkest black, it’s a high-gloss finish that requires four craftspeople’s handiwork – a 3-5 hour job – after the final two layers of clear coat are applied. A pinstripe line – again, hand-applied – picks out the Ghost’s sharp creases along the hood and shoulder.

Dark chrome on the Spirit of Ecstasy, grille, and other brightwork tones down the glitter, and there are custom 21-inch wheels that are themselves something of an engineering marvel. Exclusive to the Black Badge Ghost, they start with a carbon fiber barrel – made up of 22 layers that are then doubled up for a 44 layer form – to which a 3D forged aluminum hub is attached with titanium fasteners.

Inside, popular features like the Shooting Star Starlight Headliner are kept, together with the glowing star-like motif that glitters in the dashboard. It’s paired here with custom timepieces for the Black Badge Ghost, and metal trim pieces given the same smoky finish as the exterior trim.

Time remains one of the Ghost’s big luxuries. The carbon fiber veneer, for example, first requires multiple wood layers be combined, with a top layer of black Bolivar; onto that, resin-coated carbon and contrasting metal-coated thread are applied, by hand, in a diamond pattern. Each part is cured for an hour, and then the whole thing is sand-blasted before six layers of lacquer are applied, hand-sanded, and polished.

Lashings of leather cover the rest of the surfaces, and while Black Badge cars typically feature a darker exterior color scheme, Rolls-Royce says its clients often go for something brighter and more striking inside. The technology remains surreptitious, with physical controls alongside twin displays for the infotainment system and driver instrumentation.

A standard Ghost begins at $393,500. The Black Badge Ghost package adds $43,850 to that, but then figure on spending more for the custom paint and other options. That might be plenty, but the order books are already open and Rolls-Royce says demand is already strong.

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