Zebra Pays $3.5 Billion for Motorola Tracking Technology

Zebra Technologies is buying a unit of Motorola Solutions for $3.45 billion, borrowing most of the amount for a bet on mobile-computing services for businesses that need to track employees and products.

Zebra plans to fund the deal with about $200 million of cash and $3.25 billion in new debt. That’s almost as much as Zebra itself is worth, based on the closing stock price, which valued the company at about $3.4 billion. Both companies offer bar-code scanning, radio-frequency identification and other technology that companies can use to control their inventory, whether it’s retailers stocking shelves or hospitals recording doses of medicine.

Motorola also has specialized tablets and computers for various industries.

Trove of Software Flaws Used by US Spies at Risk

The White House’s directive to limit the use of software flaws by US intelligence agencies could require the disclosure of thousands of precious exploits now in the hands of elite spying units, intelligence professionals say.

The stockpile of exploits is derived from vulnerabilities not just in ordinary computer software, but also in industrial controllers, heating and cooling systems, printers, anti-virus software, video conferencing systems and encryption protocols.

The exploits, typically based on simple oversights and flaws in computer code that hackers can use to take control of most anything that runs with the help of a computer chip, are considered essential to gathering some of the most valuable US intelligence.

NSA Said to Have Used Heartbleed Bug, Exposing Consumers

The US National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.

The NSA’s decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government’s top computer experts. Putting the Heartbleed bug in its arsenal, the NSA was able to obtain passwords and other basic data that are the building blocks of the sophisticated hacking operations at the core of its mission, but at a cost.

Millions of ordinary users were left vulnerable to attack from other nations’ intelligence arms and criminal hackers. The NSA and other elite intelligence agencies devote millions of dollars to hunt for common software flaws that are critical to stealing data from secure computers. Open-source protocols like OpenSSL, where the flaw was found, are primary targets.

Telecom Italia Reaches Internet-TV Deal With Sky

Telecom Italia, the country’s largest phone company, is teaming with Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia for an Internet-television service to attract broadband subscriptions, giving consumers an alternative to satellite TV.

Starting in 2015, Telecom Italia clients with a My Sky HD decoder will have access to all of Sky’s TV programs over the Web, the companies said in a joint statement. Sky offers about 180 channels and programs including Formula 1, MotoGP and soccer’s Champions League. Telecom Italia’s mobile-phone customers can also watch Sky TG24 all-news channel on their smartphones and tablets.

Telecom Italia Chief Executive Officer Marco Patuano, accelerating his efforts to revive the indebted former phone monopoly, is adding services in a bid to boost phone bills as competition hurts margins in Italy’s saturated market. A broadband pay-TV service may shake up the Italian TV and video market -- the country doesn’t have major cable carriers. “Phone carriers need to enter the game of entertainment to renew their business,” said Francesco Siliato, a professor who specializes in media and telecommunications at Milan’s Politecnico University. “At the same time, TV broadcasters need new partners to spread out contents via the Internet.”

T-Mobile Introduces Mobile Plan With No Overage Fees

T-Mobile US introduced a mobile-phone plan that will prevent users from exceeding their data limits and incurring extra charges.

For $40 a month, a customer can get as much as 500 megabytes of fourth-generation LTE data service, along with unlimited talk and text messages, T-Mobile said on its website. The Simple Starter plan, which starts April 12 and doesn’t require an annual contract, won’t charge overage fees because customers won’t be able to use more than their data allotment. Instead, they will be prompted to pay more if they want additional access.

Chief Executive Officer John Legere said the plan is designed to be a “predictable, affordable solution” for new, price-sensitive customers. “People shopping at the $40 level want to pay that amount, not get surprised with overage charges,” said Mike Sievert, chief marketing officer of Bellevue, Washington-based T-Mobile. A customer who reaches the 500-megabyte limit and wants additional data allotments would pay $10 for an extra gigabyte, Sievert said.

In Verizon’s Price Battle With AT&T, Users Get the Spoils

Your mobile-phone bill may finally be shrinking. The industry’s fight over prices, ignited in 2013 by T-Mobile US, is beginning to have a noticeable effect even for consumers who haven’t switched carriers.

As they jockey to match or beat each other’s discounts for new customers, the wireless companies are also passing along savings to their current users to keep them from running off to a competitor. Even Verizon Communications, the largest US wireless carrier and the one that gets the most revenue per customer, has been dragged into the fray. With no formal announcement or fanfare, it matched AT&T’s latest price cut for big-spending, family-plan customers -- itself a move to get closer to the $140 a month T-Mobile charges for an equivalent package.

While sales are still expanding for mobile carriers, savvy consumers have been able to save hundreds of dollars a year. In its latest price cut, Verizon reduced the monthly charge for using a smartphone on a 10-gigabyte service plan to $15 from $20. For a family using four smartphones, that means a monthly plan of $180 just fell to $160 -- in line with discounts AT&T announced in February. Verizon says its promotion is temporary.

China Media Capital Raises Funds From Time Warner, WPP

China Media Capital, a state-backed investment fund, said it’s raising money from investors including WPP, Time Warner and Softbank to invest in Chinese media and entertainment companies.

China Media Capital is preparing a fund of a “few hundred million” US dollars, Chairman Li Ruigang said in an interview in Shanghai March 20, declining to be more specific. WPP, the London-based world’s largest advertising company, confirmed the investment. The company will also be announcing two acquisitions in China, Chief Executive Officer Martin Sorrell said in a phone interview from Beijing.

Entertainment companies are seeking to tap demand in the world’s second-largest economy as consumer spending grows and incomes increase. Walt Disney and DreamWorks Animation have formed partnerships in China where box-office receipts rose 36 percent to $2.7 billion in 2012, making it the biggest film market outside the US and Canada. China Media Capital already counts DreamWorks, the studio behind the “Madagascar” films, and Time Warner as among its partners in China.

“In this country, you can see the population of the middle class, it is growing so fast,” Li said. “They want to spend money not only to buy luxury goods, they also want quality entertainment, quality content.”

New York Times Story on Pakistan Censored by Local Printer

A New York Times story saying Pakistan’s government protected Taliban forces was censored by the publisher’s printing partner in that country, resulting in a blank hole on the front page of its international edition.

The article, a 4,800-word excerpt from a forthcoming book by Times reporter Carlotta Gall to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, appeared in the New York Times magazine in the US and was intended as a front-page article of the International New York Times.

While the story appears on most copies of the international edition, it doesn’t show up in papers distributed in Pakistan, about 9,000 copies, according to the publisher. The Times’s Pakistan printer, part of the Express Tribune newspaper in that country, removed the article without its knowledge, according to Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy.

“We would never self-censor and this decision was made without our knowledge or agreement,” she said in an e-mail. “While we understand that our publishing partners are sometimes faced with local pressures, we regret any censorship of our journalism.” It is unclear if the Times will continue its partnership with Express Tribune.

LightSquared Witness Predicts FCC Airwave Approval by ‘15

Philip Falcone’s LightSquared will probably get US regulatory approval to use its wireless spectrum by 2015 and may buy more airwaves, a member of a special committee of the company’s board told a bankruptcy judge.

“I believe they will allow the spectrum to be used terrestrially,” Christopher Rogers, a member of a committee specializing in airwave issues, told US Bankruptcy Judge Shelley Chapman in Manhattan.

He was testifying at the outset of what may be a multiday hearing in which LightSquared is seeking final approval of its plan to exit bankruptcy. Rogers cited two meetings with the Federal Communications Commission in December. T

The agency also has some airwaves right next to LightSquared’s slice of the spectrum, and the company could make a bid should they go up for auction, Rogers said. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration currently uses some of that spectrum.

Google Won’t Face Group E-Mail Privacy Lawsuit: Judge

Google won a major victory in its fight against claims it illegally scanned private e-mail messages to and from Gmail accounts, defeating a bid to unify lawsuits in a single group case on behalf of hundreds of millions of Internet users.

US District Judge Lucy Koh refused to let the case proceed as a class action, which would have allowed plaintiffs to pool resources and put greater pressure on Google to settle. If individuals pursue their claims against the owner of world’s largest search engine, they’ll need to use their own financial resources to litigate. Judge Koh found that the proposed classes of people in the Google case aren’t “sufficiently cohesive,” according to the ruling.