Telco Deep Dive: How Malaysia’s industry fared in Q1 2015

DURING the first quarter of 2015, the Malaysian mobile industry shrank by more than 500,000 subscribers, one of the biggest quarterly declines in recent years.

However, it was not the first time we witnessed such a drop. In the third quarter of 2014, the total mobile subscriber base declined by 89,000.

In 2006, the industry also saw a decline of approximately 500,000 subscribers following the implementation of a prepaid registration exercise mandated by the Malaysian Government. The bulk of the decline came in the second half of 2006.

Take Celcom Axiata Bhd, then known as Celcom Bhd, for example – it managed to grow its subscriber base by over 742,000 during the first half, before experiencing a decline of 1.5 million subscribers in the second half of 2006.

Fast forward to the present. During the first quarter of 2015, the total mobile subscriber base declined to 44.42 million, versus 44.93 million in the fourth quarter of last year.

The overall decline was partly driven by Celcom’s shrinking customer base.

During the quarter, its total customer base fell by 5% to 12.28 million, versus 12.97 million in the fourth quarter of 2014. It attributed the decline to the intense competition in prepaid subscriber acquisition.

Besides the decline in the mobile subscriber base, the industry also saw a change in rankings, with Maxis regaining its leadership in the mobile subscriber base.

For a deeper insight on how the industry fared in the first quarter, let’s look at the some of the numbers and break them down.

The return of the king

For many years, Maxis Bhd had been holding the top position in terms of total mobile subscriber base. However, a few years ago, its market leadership came under attack by aggressive competition from rivals Celcom and Digi.Com Bhd.

As a result, it slipped, and Celcom overtook Maxis to become the largest mobile operator in Malaysia in terms of subscriber base.

In 2014, Celcom had a 34.8% market share while Maxis had 34.6%.

Meanwhile, Digi is steadily growing its subscriber market share as well. During the first quarter, its mobile subscriber base expanded by 270,000 subscribers to hit a market share of 31.4%.

Although Maxis has regained its lead, don’t expect Celcom or Digi to stay cowed. After all Celcom, at one point, was the smallest player in the prepaid space before it staged a slow but steady climb to the top spot.

While the earlier table shows how the top three players performed in the first quarter, the table above is a snapshot of the entire mobile space, which includes mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and privately-held mobile operators like U Mobile.

From this full perspective, based also on figures from industry regulator the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), it can be seen that besides Celcom, ‘Other’ players in the sector have also experienced a decline in subscriber base.

While the MCMC did not reveal which mobile operators are contributing to the decline, it is believed that U Mobile may be one.

U Mobile chief executive officer Wong Heang Tuck, in a recent conversation with Digital News Asia (DNA), revealed that the company had taken measures to ‘wipe out’ a substantial number of inactive subscribers.

“We churned out some one million subscribers,” he told DNA after a signing ceremony between Telekom Malaysia Bhd and U Mobile in Kuala Lumpur.

While Wong did not reveal how many subscribers U Mobile had as at end-2014, a U Mobile official claimed that the company’s current subscriber base is more than four million.

Assuming U Mobile had four million in the first quarter, which telcos do the remaining 3.2 million subscribers in the ‘Others’ category belong to?

Based on industry observers’ feedback, a large portion of the 3.2 million are probably on Tune Talk (approximately 1.5 million), while the balance may likely be split amongst Merchantrade Mobile, XOX Bhd, redONE, and others.

Revenue trend and market share

In terms of revenue, the mobile industry – without factoring in revenue from U Mobile (as it is not publicly available) and the various MVNOs – experienced a slight decline in the first quarter of 2015.

The top three players registered total mobile service revenue of RM5.39 billion (US$1.44 billion), compared with RM5.4 billion (US$1.45 billion) in the first quarter of last year.

Do note that mobile service revenue does not take into account the sales of devices or the fixed-line business.

The Q1 decline was mainly driven by Celcom, as it was the only player amongst the incumbents to register a downtrend. The shortfall came from its voice and Short Message Service (SMS) business.

SMS suffers bigger than usual decline

A look at MCMC’s statistics also shows that there was a sharp decline in text messages. Although SMS volume has been trending down, it has never before fallen at such a pace.

In the first quarter of 2014, total SMS volume in the country was 14.24 billion, declining to just over 10 billion in the fourth quarter.

By the first quarter of this year, SMS volume had fallen by approximately 2.3 billion to scrape by at 7.77 billion.

The decline was likely driven by the increasing adoption of smartphones as well as the skyrocketing popularity of messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Line, WeChat and KakaoTalk.

Prepaid consolidation?

During the first quarter, the total prepaid subscriber base in the industry shrank by 620,000 subscribers to 36.16 million.

The decline was mainly driven by Celcom’s performance in that segment. During the quarter, it recorded 9.54 million prepaid subscribers versus 10.17 million in the fourth quarter of last year.

This also saddles Celcom with the smallest prepaid subscriber base, with Digi recording 9.93 million prepaid subscribers and Maxis leading with 9.98 million.

In terms of revenue, it appears that Maxis was the biggest winner in the first quarter as it gained the most ground. During this period, its prepaid mobile revenue market share jumped to 33.4%, from 30.5% and 30.7% in the first and fourth quarters of 2014, respectively.

Though it gained the most market share, Maxis still couldn’t dethrone Digi in the prepaid space, with the ‘Yellow Man’ staying strong at pole position with a 36.6% market share.

Postpaid status quo

The postpaid landscape remained pretty much unchanged for the top three players. Maxis was almost untouched in this space, with a commanding 42.1% subscriber market share and a 45.2% revenue market share.

Although Celcom suffered in its prepaid business, its postpaid business remained somewhat stable. During the quarter, it lost a marginal number of subscribers, while revenue fell 1% to RM739 million (US$197.8 million).

Nevertheless, its position as a strong No 2 player in this space was not threatened.

Digi was the only player amongst the top three to register growth in both its postpaid revenue and subscriber base.


With all these leadership changes, it will be interesting to see if Maxis can hold on to the overall top spot, if Digi can defend its prepaid turf, and if Celcom can get aggressive enough to regain lost ground.

One thing is for sure, this sector is becoming increasingly interesting to watch.

– See more at:

Cunningham hails ‘ruthless’ Saints

St Helens skipper Jon Wilkin, centre, was praised by coach Keiron Cunningham for his display against Wigan

St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham believes his young team came of age with their 30-14 derby win over Wigan that took them back to the top of the First Utility Super League.

Saints trailed 10-8 at half-time but dominated the second half and took advantage of a series of errors by the visitors to run out comfortable winners at Langtree Park.

“In the second half we were ruthless,” Cunningham said. “You’ve got to bear in mind we were playing against the best side in the competition on current form.

“It was a real good yardstick to see where we were at as a team. We’ve been chipping away at the points in the last few weeks, just growing that belief among ourselves and I think we really came of age tonight.

“We’re in a really good place, I’m really pleased for them.

“There’s an awful lot of passion around this game. You feel you actually deserve more than two points when you come away with the spoils.

“You feel like you should just walk away and win the league with that. What a spectacle for rugby league!”

St Helens captain Jon Wilkin shrugged off a head wound to lead his side to their impressive win, scoring the last of their five tries after pouncing on a wayward pass near his own line by Wigan centre Dan Sarginson.

“Considering he’s a back rower playing seven, he was an absolute champion tonight,” Cunningham said. “He led from the front. I thought he was absolutely outstanding.”

Another player defying injury was hooker James Roby who played the full 80 minutes with bandages on both hands and proved to be a handful all night for his opponents.

“I always thought I was a pretty decent nine but I’ve never come close to this kid,” Cunningham said.

“There’s nothing like him in the competition. You take him for granted because he does that every week. He’s an absolute machine.”
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It was still 14-14 when Joel Tomkins scored Wigan’s third try on 50 minutes, adding to first-half scores from Joe Burgess and Sarginson, but they were left to rue two blunders by full-back Matty Bowen which gifted second-half tries to Shannon McDonnell and Travis Burns.

“There are other areas I’m just as upset about,” said Wigan coach Shaun Wane. “It was a poor team performance and it’s a tough one to deal with.

“We just didn’t play in the right areas of the field.

“It was an awful performance, we just never got into an arm wrestle and came up with silly errors and penalties. I’m really disappointed that we didn’t challenge them in any area today.

“We didn’t throw anything at them apart from the first six minutes.

“Without a doubt the best team won and it hurts really badly. We’ve got to take it on the chin.”

Hornets midfielder Daniel Tozser says Watford players have no fear of the Premier League

Picture: Dave Peters

Stylish Hungarian midfielder Daniel Tozser insists Watford have no fear of the Premier League and even believes they will flourish in the top tier.

The Golden Boys will compete in the top flight of English football for the first time in eight years next season after finishing as runners-up to Bournemouth in the Championship standings.

Just five members of the Hornets’ current squad – Heurelho Gomes, Craig Cathcart, Matej Vydra, Lloyd Dyer and Ben Watson – have experience of playing in the Premier League.

However, ten players have played in either the Champions League or Europa League and Tozser insists with the calibre of player available to the club, the Golden Boys have nothing to fear.

Speaking at the open-top bus parade to celebrate promotion, the Hungarian reasoned: “Football suits good players and we have a lot of good players. So we have no fear of playing in the Premier League.

“In the Championship it is sometimes harder to play passing football, especially for a team like Watford who dominate most of the ball.

“We will need different characteristics in the Premier League because we will have to defend more. It is important we do what we have to do to stay up.”

He added: “It is a fantastic competition and I think our team is ready to compete there. Of course some people will leave and some players will come but I am sure if we keep the core of this team we will have a fantastic season.”

Tozser, 30, returned to Vicarage Road on an initial two-year loan deal from Parma last season after impressing during a six-month spell on loan from Italian side Genoa in 2014.

The Magyar, who lists Debrecen, Ferencvaros, AEK Athens and Genk among his former employers, knows Watford are likely to recruit further quality during the summer.

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And that is a point underlined by last week’s capture of former Europa League runner-up and 49-cap Austrian international, Sebastian Prodl.

The towering centre-half might not be a direct rival for Tozser’s starting berth but the rangy midfielder is still adamant the current crop of players are more than good enough to hold their own amongst the elite of English football.

He stated: “There will be moves for sure; it is normal. When you get promotion you need some real quality players in the team.

“But you never know what will happen. If they kept the same team I would be 100 per cent confident.”

Promotion to the Premier League has been the stated aim of owner Gino Pozzo since he and his father Gianpaolo completed his purchase of the Hertfordshire outfit from Laurence Bassini in 2012.

After coming up short to finish 13th in 2013/14, the expectation was only heightened when the players returned to pre-season training a little over 12 months ago under the since departed head coach Beppe Sannino.

Time waits for no man though, and Tozser is already looking to next season and the chance to mix it with the likes of Yaya Toure, Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic.

“We have to work even harder than last season,” explained Tozser. “It will be another type of football and it will be a very tough pre-season.”

The Hornets on-loan midfielder added: “I came to Watford to get promotion; like Troy (Deeney) would say in the dressing room it is job done. Now we need to look at next season.”

Over-The-Top TV Revenues Forecast To Hit $19B In 2019

New research shows that TV homes with broadband are increasingly signing onto over-the-top TV (OTT) service — with and without traditional pay TV services.

In the U.S., 57% of current traditional pay TV providers have an OTT video service, while 7% (8.4 million U.S. homes) have an OTT service but no pay TV services, according to Parks Associates. This last number includes consumers who have discontinued pay TV service and those who have never subscribed to pay TV.

Globally, Parks says revenue from OTT service will more than double in four years, reaching $19 billion in 2019 from $9 billion in 2014.

Other countries are a bit behind U.S. consumers — but growing. In the U.K., 57% of pay TV homes with broadband have at least one OTT service, while Spain has 29% of pay TV homes with broadband that have an OTT service, and in Germany, the percentage is 24%.

In the U.K., Spain, and Canada, 4% of TV consumers’ homes with broadband have an OTT service, but no traditional pay TV package; Germany is at 2%.

Traditional pay TV providers have tried to compete with OTT with their own TV Everywhere efforts — putting their traditional TV content on new mobile apps and other non-traditional platforms.

But Brett Sappington, director of research for Parks Associates, says this hasn’t worked. “While operator attempts at TV Everywhere have made little impact, OTT video services are experiencing a boom.”

PCL in SLC: Herman Franks runs his hometown’s Bees

Herman Franks batted .199 as a catcher in the major leagues, but that number tells only part of his baseball story.

His place in Salt Lake City’s 100-year Pacific Coast League history is a snapshot in a career that made him one of Utah sports’ most compelling characters. Franks played in the PCL in Los Angeles at age 18. He witnessed — and aided, according to lore — one of the most dramatic home runs in baseball history. He played with Jackie Robinson in the minors. He managed Willie Mays in the majors. He loved baseball for all of his 95 years, before dying in 2009.

And he could run a business, including the Salt Lake Bees’ Triple-A franchise in the early 1960s. “Just a dynamic, make-it-happen kind of guy,” said Roger Tonnesen, who worked for Franks. “He was damned good at it.”

Born into an Italian-American family in Price, Franks graduated from East High School and always considered Salt Lake City his home. That explains how he became involved with the Bees.

The PCL had returned to Utah in 1958, when the Brooklyn Dodgers’ move to Los Angeles forced the Hollywood Stars franchise to relocate, 32 years after shifting from Salt Lake City. In contrast to the initial PCL era in town and the current franchise’s level of support, the Bees were not embraced. The community-owned franchise with 8,500 shareholders continually lost money, due to low attendance.

Franks — at various times involved in mobile-home manufacturing, grocery stores, insurance and real estate — knew he could operate a baseball club. In a family interview that serves as his memoirs, Franks detailed his agreement with the Bees’ board. The directors should “just butt out and let me take it,” he said, assuming all financial risk or reward. “They couldn’t give it to me fast enough.”

Watching the video recently, Daniel Franks said, “That does epitomize my dad. He thought he could make it work.”

And so he did — to a degree that seems unlikely, in context. He immersed himself in the business, giving up part of his dual position as the Bees’ manager eight games into the ’61 season.

In newspaper accounts, Bees president Enid Cosgriff cited annual losses of about $40,000 before and after Franks’ year of having a personal stake in the operation. Yet Franks generated a $65,000 profit in ’61, keeping $20,000 and returning the remainder to the club, he once told the Intermountain Catholic.

The story is plausible, Tonnesen contends. The Bees attracted about 105,000 fans in 77 home games that season, compared with 90,000 three years later (the team now draws roughly 500,000 fans annually).

With box seats costing $2, the increased attendance wouldn’t account for the profit Franks reported. What’s reasonable to believe is that Franks succeeded by leveraging his other business relationships into sponsorships and season tickets and ran a lean operation. His sons, Daniel and Herman Jr., then teenagers, remember a staff member being assigned to chase foul balls at Derks Field, putting them back into play.

Tonnesen, who married Franks’ cousin, recalled Franks’ demanding nature with city employees, concessionaires and others involved with the club. “He’d get people in the office,” Tonnesen said, “and you’d hear him yelling for half a block.”

“He was a very shrewd operator,” said Jim Kittilsby, who followed Tonnesen as business manager in 1962, when Franks remained the Bees’ executive vice president. “He could cut corners to the bone.”

The Bees had won the PCL championship in 1959. In the ’58-65 era, the team included recognizable names such as Sam McDowell, Glenn Beckert and Billy Cowan, a former University of Utah two-sport athlete who became the league MVP in ’63. Yet overall, the Bees were “not an artistic success, not a financial success,” Kittilsby said, long before minor-league franchise operators learned to market the game as family entertainment, with promotions and other attractions.

They were “selling baseball on the merits of baseball,” said Kittilsby, who owned no item with a team logo other than a cap he got from an equipment manager, illustrating the absence of merchandising.

Tonnesen became an airline pilot. Kittilsby moved on to other baseball jobs, then enjoyed a long career in Pacific Lutheran University athletics. Cosgriff, promoted by the board after the death of her husband, Walter, in an auto accident, returned to other civic and charitable interests, notably ballet. Cosgriff allowed the franchise to move to Tacoma after the ’65 season, pointing to the lack of support for baseball in Salt Lake City.

Franks had returned to the field by then. He joined the San Francisco Giants’ coaching staff in ’64, after having worked for the New York-based franchise in the ’50s. That’s how he figured into Bobby Thomson’s legendary, pennant-winning homer against Brooklyn in ’51. Although he never admitted anything, Franks was stationed in the home clubhouse in center field of the Polo Grounds and relayed the catcher’s signs, as detailed in a 2006 book, “The Echoing Green.”

Franks became San Francisco’s manager in ’65. His teams finished second in the National League four years in a row, in an era prior to league playoffs. He would regret walking away from the Giants, having pledged to quit if they failed to reach the World Series — while averaging 91 wins. He also managed the Chicago Cubs from 1977 to 79.


Ute connection

The Bees produced two MVPs of the Pacific Coast League in the 1958-65 era, each with ties to the University of Utah.

Pitcher Dick Hall posted an 18-5 record and 1.87 ERA in 217 innings in 1959, when the Bees won the PCL championship. Hall had been diagnosed with hepatitis the previous year and was unable to pitch, so the Swarthmore College economics major took graduate courses in accounting at Utah. Hall pitched in three World Series for Baltimore.

Outfielder Billy Cowan batted .315 with 25 home runs and 120 RBIs in 158 games for the Bees in 1963. Cowan played baseball and basketball for Utah, and co-captained the Utes’ 1960 team that played in the NCAA Nasketball Tournament. He was inducted into the Crimson Club Hall of Fame in 2009. Cowan hit 19 homers for the Chicago Cubs in 1964, one of his eight seasons in the majors with six teams.

Women’s influence

Taking over as board president after the death of her husband, Walter, in November 1961, Enid Cosgriff began a trend of women holding important positions with Salt Lake City’s PCL franchise. Kathy Kelly became the general manager in 1977, and Tammy Felker-White and Dorsena Picknell held that title in the Joe Buzas ownership era, beginning in 1994.

As of the early 1960s, Cosgriff was considered a novelty. An Associated Press profile of her began, “The iron hand that runs the Salt Lake Bees has painted finger nails.” She later nicknamed herself “The Fighting Mick” to characterize her effort to keep the PCL franchise viable in Salt Lake City, but conceded after the 1965 season and allowed the franchise to move to Tacoma.

Title team

Salt Lake City’s first of three PCL championships came in 1959, before the adoption of a playoff format. As a Pittsburgh affiliate, the Bees went 85-69. They finished 1.5 games ahead of Vancouver, which played three fewer games because of weather issues. Salt Lake clinched the title on the third-to-last day of the season, sweeping Sacramento in a doubleheader.

The woman behind a right Royal buzz: Beauty guru whose age-defying bee venom potions have put a smile on some very famous faces

'When I put my hands on the first person I ever treated, a strange, life-changing feeling came over me. I felt as though I was home and knew in that instant I would never do anything else,' said Deborah Mitchell

My interview is off to a flying start. I have come to meet Deborah Mitchell, founder of the Heaven skincare label and beauty therapist of choice to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, among countless starry others.

I want to know more about the close bond between our likely future queen and the self-made lass from Shropshire, whose bee-venom facials have been credited with taking years off the duchess’s face.

I arrive at Deborah’s modern converted barn to find her – blonde and fabulous in a clinging black dress – lovingly polishing a crystal jug, emblazoned with a rather regal-looking C.

I have scarcely one foot through the door when she tells me, with a wink, that ‘a very special client’ gave it to her the day before, when she was up at Balmoral. This will be a doddle, I think.

But I have underestimated Deborah, 50, who started out in the beauty industry aged 17 as a mobile therapist going from door to door with nail extensions.

Last year, the turnover of Heaven by Deborah Mitchell, which she founded in 1991, was £30 million.

She has 20 million reaches on Twitter (a very big deal, apparently), is huge in Asia (where 2,300 spas stock her line), and her clients include the Beckhams (Victoria swears by her Age Defiance cream), Minogues (Kylie and Dannii love the Orange Flower Cell Renewal Hydrogel), Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson (SOS Oil devotees) and Robert Downey Jr (whose PA just came and sorted out Deborah’s ‘chaotic’ wardrobe for her, so chummy are they).

'Before I knew it I was in LA doing treatments on Jack Nicholson round the pool! I joke that I started out as a mobile therapist and I’m still one now – just in a more swanky way,' said Deborah 

‘Before I knew it I was in LA doing treatments on Jack Nicholson round the pool! I joke that I started out as a mobile therapist and I’m still one now – just in a more swanky way,’ said Deborah

She has opened a Heaven spa in nearby Shifnal, using the playing field of a local school as a helicopter landing pad for the likes of Simon Cowell, who managed to visit without being recognised (‘because no one expected Simon Cowell to be in a spa in Shropshire’), and she spends much of her time being ferried by private jet everywhere from the royal residences to the Academy Awards in Los Angeles. She’s even had spaghetti bolognese made for her by Peter Andre (‘such a kind person, as was Katie Price’) during a visit to their home.

Deborah was born and raised in working-class Telford. Her mother Sheila, a hairdresser, separated from her late father, who ran a chauffeur business, when Deborah was six, and lives just up the road from Deborah’s barn.

Despite her humble roots, Deborah has cultivated an elite appeal, in part by making herself and her products difficult to get hold of.

‘To begin with, I wanted to make sure I had a business I could sustain, so I turned down opportunities for expansion.’

She will not allow Heaven to be sold online, or even through her own website, which merely directs visitors to the nearest stockist, or in UK department stores (though she has made a recent exception for Urban Retreat in Harrods).

‘If someone wants us, they have to go into a high-end spa to find us. Brands such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton may be “luxury”, but they’re also mass-market. I wanted to create something more exclusive.’

Deborah’s big break came when Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor’s wife Tracey – now one of her best friends – read about her and then had to wait three months for an appointment.

                               ‘A lot of people have preconceived ideas about her (Duchess of Cornwall), but all I can say is she is an incredibly warm person,' said Deborah                                                Deborah also treats the Duchess of Cambridge

‘A lot of people have preconceived ideas about her (Duchess of Cornwall), but all I can say is she is an incredibly warm person,’ said Deborah who also treats the Duchess of Cambridge

‘I was working 7am to 7pm every day treating my existing clients, and I wasn’t going to let them down. I guess that increased my appeal,’ she shrugs.

‘Pretty soon I was looking after all the band members and their wives, and then that group expanded, and before I knew it I was in LA doing treatments on Jack Nicholson round the pool! I joke that I started out as a mobile therapist and I’m still one now – just in a more swanky way.’

This is a wonderful success story of a properly home-grown British brand and testament to the fact that Deborah is a canny operator, not to mention a warm and exuberant character.

Welcoming and glamorous, she serves champagne at her press events – ‘I do like a drop of fizz,’ she grins, ‘though, sadly, alcohol is the worst thing for your skin’ – and it’s not hard to see how Deborah and the famously fun-loving Duchess of Cornwall would get along brilliantly.

Today, she bustles about offering everyone cups of coffee, shouting at her jack russell Taffy to ‘get down’.

At the merest mention of Camilla, she at once titters with excitement and nervously avoids the subject, desperate to protect the privacy of the woman she has grown so close to.

She will not refer to her by name, but can’t resist dropping in mentions of ‘my very important client’.

I tell her I read that she and Camilla met about ten years ago, right after Deborah’s father passed away, and she was quoted as saying that she felt as though Camilla was ‘sent to her’ at that difficult time.

‘When did I say that?’ she demands, before admitting it’s true and adding, ‘You’ve done your homework! Everyone knows that I treat her, but it doesn’t sound good for me to be quoted saying so.

‘The truth is she can’t recall how she came to me, and I don’t know how it happened either. She said to me the other day, “I can’t believe I found you.” Like me, she feels it was something very special that brought us together, because we really do click…

‘A lot of people have preconceived ideas about her, but all I can say is she is an incredibly warm person. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me saying that.

‘Her children, Tom and Laura, are down-to-earth and lovely, too.’

                                                  Kylie Minogue loves the Orange Flower Cell Renewal Hydrogel                                   Gwyneth Paltrow is a SOS Oil devotee

Fans: Kylie Minogue (left) loves the Orange Flower Cell Renewal Hydrogel; Gwyneth Paltrow (right) is a SOS Oil devotee

She admits that Camilla and Charles occasionally give her gifts – she shows me some small decorative boxes that came from Charles – and treat her as a trusted friend, giving her tours of their gardens at Highgrove and Birkhall on the Balmoral estate, where she has just been.

Although she talks proudly of her new Heaven men’s range and mentions that 30 per cent of her clients are now male – ‘Men have become more… What’s a positive word for vain?’ – Deborah won’t confirm or deny that she treats the prince, too, saying pointedly, ‘You can recognise my clients because they are the ones who look amazing.

‘Anyone who looks particularly great these days, I am probably treating him.’

I’ll take that as a yes, then. She will also not discuss the Duchess of Cambridge, citing a secrecy agreement that she has signed, but it has previously been reported that Kate enlisted her services after being introduced by Camilla, who sent a basket of products as a ‘welcome to the family’ gift when she and Prince William got engaged, and that Kate enjoyed a facial just days before the royal wedding.

As well as her sense of discretion, innate business acumen and healing aura, Deborah owes her success to a rather unlikely secret weapon: bees, or, to be precise, bee venom – a key ingredient in many of her products and treatments.

‘The idea came to me about ten years ago. I looked in the mirror and my face was sagging. I thought, “What am I going to do?”

‘I had tried Botox and it made me look pinched and aggressive, so I didn’t want to go down that route. I went to bed that night, and, as with most of my products, I dream them up.

‘My sister, who lives down the road from me, is a beekeeper, so I had a lot of information about bees and honey in my head. I woke up and knew what I had to do.’

The potion resulting from Deborah’s dream has now been patented as Abeetoxin – a complicated formulation of bee venom, honey and botulism (or botulinum), a natural form of the toxin used in Botox that can be harvested from a beehive.

‘That bit about botulism is a YOU exclusive!’ Deborah trills.

Until now, she has referred to it as her ‘secret ingredient’, which she had reportedly revealed only to the Duchess of Cornwall.

                                        Fans: Kate Hudson                                           Robert Downey Jr (whose PA just came and sorted out Deborah’s ‘chaotic’ wardrobe for her, so chummy are they)

Fans: Kate Hudson and Robert Downey Jr (whose PA just came and sorted out Deborah’s ‘chaotic’ wardrobe for her, so chummy are they)

‘I’ve kept it quiet because I didn’t want to be copied, but my patent is now strong enough,’ she says, while smearing my face with her bestselling Bee Venom Mask (Camilla’s favourite) and exclaiming to her assistant Donna, ‘Oh, look. You can see the difference already!’ And I do feel a tingling as it glides on.

When I look later, my forehead lines have been smoothed, replaced with a dewy glow. I can see why bee venom has been described as the needle-free alternative to Botox.

‘Botox can too often make people look Spock-eyed,’ says Deborah.

‘You and I are getting along because our faces are communicating warmth and expression; that wouldn’t be happening if either of us had Botox. I don’t advise it.’

The Bee Venom Mask is sold in three tiers, starting with silver (£80 for 60ml), which contains the lowest amount of Abeetoxin, then black, Deborah’s bestselling product (£154), and up to gold (£352), which each person is only ever allowed to buy once, ‘because it uses very special queen bee venom, and there is only one in every hive.

‘We need to try to preserve it and give as many people as possible the opportunity to experience it.

Fans: The Beckhams (Victoria swears by her Age Defiance cream)

Fans: The Beckhams (Victoria swears by her Age Defiance cream)

‘We take your name when you buy it and keep it on the system.’

And does this rule apply to all of her clients, I ask (wondering if even Camilla has been restricted to one pot of gold)?

‘All rules have exceptions,’ Deborah smiles.

She swiftly moves on to telling me that she is now an official ‘guardian of the bees’, because – as well as donating a percentage of her profits to bee charities – the way that she extracts the venom actually saves their lives.

‘We release a small electrical current through a pane of glass that causes the bees no harm but encourages them to sting the glass, depositing their venom.

‘When a bee stings a person, the stinger gets released into the flesh, causing the bee to die. But when they sting glass, the stinger can’t come out because it’s too hard, but their brain tells them they’ve stung, and so not to sting again.

‘So they live. We are giving old age to bees! Then we just scrape the venom off the glass.’

She makes it sound so simple.

‘I could never afford to buy products, so from the very beginning I made my own. I became a scientist.’

As a child, Deborah had no interest in beauty and wanted to be a model and actress.

‘But then I got terrible acne and thought, “I’ll do beauty and solve my skin problems.”’

So she enrolled in a local college and set up as a mobile therapist.

‘But when I put my hands on the first person I ever treated, a strange, life-changing feeling came over me.

‘I felt as though I was home and knew in that instant I would never do anything else.

‘Now if I don’t do enough treatments, I suffer; it’s therapeutic for me.

‘When I perform a facial, I close my eyes and when I open them at the end, I don’t recognise the person beneath my hands. I don’t call myself a healer, but I suppose I am.’

She nods when I ask if her very important client thinks so.

Deborah's daughter Ella, 18, has followed her in skincare 'She’ll end up working for me,' she said

Deborah’s daughter Ella, 18, has followed her in skincare ‘She’ll end up working for me,’ she said

Deborah admits that the self-healing aspect of her work was especially helpful when she recently suffered a ‘rocky patch’ in her 19-year marriage to Chris Cox, a bacon manufacturer with whom she has two teenage children, Ella and Chris.

It has been wrongly reported that the pair were divorcing, but Deborah says, ‘We weathered the storm. It’s true we had problems and almost split, but I stayed with it and am so glad that I did.

‘We’re very happy now. It’s interesting to see who is there for you when you go through something like that.

‘Mentioning no names, my very important clients were amazing. I felt so honoured to have their support throughout.’

Ella, 18, emerges from her bedroom. Not surprisingly, she has a glowing complexion, despite complaining of a spot.

Deborah tells me proudly that Ella already has a keen head for business and has created a line of cleansing wipes, Ella Jane Celebrity Organic Face Wipes, now sold nationwide.

‘You just refused Waitrose, didn’t you?’ Deborah calls out to her.

‘She wants to be able to control the business, just like Mum. She’ll end up working for me,’ she beams.

‘She’s got that confidence of youth. I was the same. Now I have to pinch myself at how well I’ve done, but when I was starting out at Ella’s age, knocking on doors with my nail tips, it never crossed my mind that my skincare wouldn’t go all over the world.’

As indeed it has. Deborah has just cracked Australia and is constantly innovating and dreaming up new products.

She tells me that she recently made the big decision to change the packaging of her Bee Venom Mask to a sleeker, more modern design.

‘One of my very important clients’ – again, the wink – ‘said to me, when I showed her the new packaging, “As always, Debbie, it’s the inside that counts, and I love your products.” Isn’t that just lovely?’

Cresswell to leave Arqiva

John Cresswell

John Cresswell is to step down as chief executive of infrastructure and media services company Arqiva.

He’s expected to leave his current role in August after four years with the company.

Cresswell, who also spent a period as interim CEO at ITV, was the broadcaster’s chief operating officer.

Arqiva is the principal operator of transmission towers in the UK, it also provides connectivity to the UK’s mobile phone operators and sports feeds for broadcasters including Sky Sports.

Appeal stokes telecoms merger controversy

A small German mobile company has fired a legal salvo that could ricochet across the European telecoms industry with unknown consequences.

Airdata’s target was the €8.6 billion acquisition of KPN’s German unit last year by Spain’s Telefónica. This week Airdata accused the European Commission, which signed off on the takeover, of failing to protect competition in the marketplace.

The rare appeal to the European Union General Court was perfectly timed on two fronts: First, an industry-shaking deal in the UK will land on the Commission’s desk for approval in the coming months. Then, almost at the same time, the Austrian competition authority is expected to release a study of mobile phone prices in the country following the Commission’s approval for a deal that reduced the number of players there.

Airdata, a Stuttgart-based mobile broadband provider, has suddenly cast a spotlight on an almost ideological battle over the future of Europe’s highly-regulated telecoms industry.

In recent years regulators in Europe have moved from demanding that there be at least four mobile network operators to accepting that three is enough to ensure competition, explained Andrew Entwistle, a telecoms analyst at the consultancy New Street Research. “There are still a few holdouts that think that ‘four’ is always the right number.”

Stagnant revenues and cheap financing are driving efforts to consolidate among Europe’s 100-odd mobile operators, with a raft of deals said to be in the pipeline.
Airdata alleged that in the wake of the acquisition, Telefónica, together with giants Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone, had enough market power to “dictate” the prices they charged consumers as well as mobile operators renting spectrum from them.

The commitments Telefónica made to win the Commission’s approval “are totally inadequate to secure vibrant competition in the interests of consumers,” said Christian Irmler, the chief executive of Airdata.

A spokesman for Telefónica said the company would analyze the complaint. But he stressed that “even a theoretically possible negative decision in that case would not lead to immediate effects on the merger,” as the court would just order the Commission to re-assess the deal.

Flashback: Telefónica promised to license part of its network to smaller challenger operators and to sell off enough spectrum to allow a new network operator to enter the market. Telefónica also said it would not change existing deals with smaller operators.

Irmler’s position constitutes a direct attack on the Commission’s recent pattern of allowing national markets to shrink from four mobile network operators to three. The Commission green-lighted such combinations in Austria in 2013 and in Ireland and Germany in 2014.

The Commission often extracted concessions, but as market forces have played out, the effectiveness has become the subject of considerable controversy across Europe.

The most vocal opponents include consumer groups and smaller mobile operators. They argue that only intense competition will force the largest telecom operators to invest while keeping prices low.

“More competitors means lower prices for consumers and more investment into infrastructure,” said Antonios Drossos, managing partner at Rewheel, a telecoms consultancy. “Competition gives operators an incentive to differentiate themselves by investing.”

By contrast, Europe’s largest operators argue that they are unable to invest given constraints on revenues as a result of competition and mergers control. That is bad for consumers, argues Stephen Howard, head of telecoms research at HSBC: “The primary driver of lower unit prices is investment in technology.”

The three big deals in question were approved by the predecessor of Margrethe Vestager, commissioner for competition. After only nine months in the job, she must face down echoes of criticism as she weighs the costs and benefits of UK company Three’s £10.3 billion (€14.3 billion) bid for rival O2.

The merger between the UK’s third- and fourth-largest operators would create a titan with the most customers in the country.

The Commission confirmed that Airdata had lodged an appeal and said it would defend its decision in court. Vestager declined an invitation to comment for this article.

Europe’s telecoms markets are worth €240 billion annually, about half of which comes from mobile devices, according to ETNO, an industry association that represents the largest telcos. Europe has more than 100 telecoms firms, compared to four major players in the U.S., which has a market roughly the same size.

But Vestager’s vantage point is changing as fast as the European telecoms landscape.

Three’s bid for O2 follows hot on the heels of the announcement by the UK’s largest traditional telephone operator, British Telecom, that it would buy the U.K.’s largest mobile operator, EE, for £12.5 billion.

The UK competition authority announced Tuesday that it was opening an in-depth probe into BT’s plans to bundle broadband, fixed-line telephones and mobile offerings in the UK market.

“Ultimately there is a relatively high likelihood that both deals could be approved,” said Ivan Palacios, a telecoms analyst at credit rating agency Moody’s. But he expected the remedies to be more stringent in the case of Three and O2’s merger, because it would reduce the number of competitors on the mobile market.

“These would likely be mandatory spectrum disposals or mandatory access for” smaller operators, he predicted.

Matthew Howett, an analyst with Ovum, a telecoms and media research firm, disagreed, arguing that the Commission could approve the deal without remedies.
“Retail prices in the UK are already among the lowest in Europe or even the world,” he said. “The remedies in Germany and Ireland around requiring access to [smaller challengers] made a lot of sense in those markets, but in the UK we have around 150.”

By contrast, he signaled concerns over BT’s plans to integrate its extensive broadband network with EE’s mobile business.

“The focus is going to be on the products that EE’s competitors purchase from BT,” he said.

Clearance for both mergers will settle questions about how the Commission views four-to-three mergers in the industry.

For Airdata, CEO Irmler will have to wait for the European Union General Court, which will probably take longer. And by then, his vantage point also will probably have changed.

Dish looking to raise up to $15bn for T-Mobile bid

U.S. satellite TV operator is talking to banks to raise cash part of mobile operator deal, newswire’s sources say.

Dish looking to raise up to $15bn for T-Mobile bid

Dish Network is talking to banks with a view to raising between US$10 billion and $15 billion to fund an acquisition of T-Mobile US, it emerged late on Thursday.

The satellite TV operator is working on a deal that would primarily consist of stock, but it needs to raise funds for the cash portion of the transaction, Dow Jones Newswires reported citing unnamed sources.

The sources added that Deustche Telekom and Dish are working on a transaction that would leave the German incumbent with a minority stake in a merged T-Mobile/Dish.

While any deal is still likely to be some way off, the newswire notes that Dish’s interactions with banks and the fact that information is emerging about the structure of the deal suggest that the companies are making progress.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that while negotiations between the parties are still at an early stage, they have broadly agreed on the structure of the merged entity, including its management; T-Mobile US chief executive John Legere will lead Dish/T-Mo, while Dish Network co-founder and current CEO Charlie Ergen will take on the chairman role, the Journal said.

Thorny issues such as the price of the deal have yet to be resolved though.

According to Dow Jones Newswires, Deutsche Telekom will likely seek to be adequately compensated for the progress T-Mobile US has made in recent years; indeed, the company is close to becoming the third largest mobile operator in the U.S., although a growth spurt from Sprint is keeping it in fourth spot for now.

Meanwhile, the newswire points out that Ergen has a reputation for tough negotiating. All in all then, it could be difficult for the two sides to reach agreement.

South Korean government will let new player deploy network infrastructure in phases

south korea SK Telecom

The government of South Korea plans to pave the way for the entry of a fourth mobile telephony operator in the country.

The authorities of the Asian nation said that the new operator will be selected during 2015. The government believes that the entry of a new player will make the market more dynamic and foster competition.

The move also has the goal of lowering mobile telephony tariffs. The mobile market is currently dominated by SK Telecom, with a market share of approximately 50%, followed by KT and LG Uplus.

In order to lower the entry barriers, such as a significant initial investments and limited frequencies, the government plans to offer the new operator priority in mobile spectrum allocation and let it deploy a nationwide network infrastructure through a gradual process.

The government of South Korea aims to award 700MHz spectrum in the second half of 2015, according to previous reports.

Meanwhile, the government is reportedly planning to increase the market share of low-price service plans from 10-12% in 2016 by offering incentives for service providers. The government also aims to abolish the current system of new service plans. Under the new bill, mobile operators will be allowed to launch new tariffs without approval in order to respond to consumer demands immediately.

The telecommunications ministry plans to collect public opinions in the coming weeks and will announce the final plan in June.

According to SK Telecom’s latest financial report, the telco ended the first quarter of 2015 with 28.4 million mobile subscribers. LTE subscribers accounted for over 61% of the operator’s overall mobile telephony base.

KT reached a total of 18.24 million wireless subscribers by the end of the first quarter of the year. The firm’s 3G and 4G subscribers amounted to 17.5 million by the Q1 end. LG Uplus totaled 11.45 million subscribers by the end of Q1.