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Sprint, T-Mobile Deal Gets Green Light From U.S. Regulators

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A federal government committee and other top regulators in the United States have approved the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, paving the way for a union between the country’s third- and fourth-largest wireless operators.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States — a body that reviews foreign investments in the United States for national security threats — the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense all agreed to the $26.5 billion deal, T-Mobile said in a statement on Monday.

Some investors, consumer advocates and government officials opposed the merger, claiming that the new telecommunications giant would limit customer choices and result in high prices for consumers.

Proponents of the deal said it would make the combined company, with about 100 million customers, a competitor that would be able to go toe-to-toe with AT&T and Verizon in the battle to dominate the next frontiers of wireless technology in the United States. John Legere, T-Mobile’s chief executive, has argued that he would “lower prices to attract new customers.”

The combination would still need to secure approval from the Federal Communications Commission, which has scrutinized a possible T-Mobile-Sprint merger before. In 2014, regulators at the F.C.C. rejected a proposed merger, concluding that effectively reducing the American wireless market to three major carriers from four would not be good for consumers.

The deal remains subject to other regulatory approvals as well. If the two companies receive those approvals, the deal is expected to close during the first half of 2019, according to T-Mobile.

In the past, American regulators rejected attempted mergers in the telecommunications industry, such as AT&T’s $39 billion proposal to buy T-Mobile in 2011, on the grounds that more competitors are better for consumers because they result in lower prices and superior services.

The T-Mobile-Sprint deal has also raised national security concerns from some lawmakers. They cite a company not involved with the deal: Huawei, the Chinese maker of telecommunications gear.

American officials have long labeled Huawei a national security threat. The major telecommunications companies in the United States, including Sprint and T-Mobile, have avoided using the company’s equipment to run its networks.

Still, the two companies’ corporate parents are Huawei customers. Sprint is controlled by SoftBank of Japan, while T-Mobile is controlled by its German parent, Deutsche Telekom.

Their ties to Huawei may be changing, however. The timing of the approval comes as Deutsche Telekom is weighing a re-evaluation of its purchasing strategy following the ongoing controversy around Huawei. Deutsche Telekom said it was taking seriously the “global discussion about the security of network elements from Chinese manufacturers.”

In Japan, government officials have said they are developing procedures for procurement in areas like communications networks and information technology with an eye on cybersecurity. Government officials have denied that the guidelines would single out Chinese companies like Huawei.

“This doesn’t mean to exclude particular companies,” Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said last week. “It’s extremely important not to procure equipment that are embedded with malicious functions.”

Takatoshi Mori, a spokesman for SoftBank, said reports that SoftBank was also reconsidering its relationship with Huawei “are based on speculation.” But he added, “we will consider our future policies while abiding by the government’s policy,” and said it gets most of its networking equipment from European vendors.

Western governments, including the United States, are worried that Huawei’s systems could be susceptible to spying by the Chinese government. Australia and New Zealand have both banned Huawei equipment from planned 5G networks in those countries. A top executive from Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, is awaiting extradition to the United States from Canada, in a case that has inflamed tensions between China and the United States.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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