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Eurobites: We'll Sell DT Stake to Fund Fiber Rollout, Says Germany's FDP

Iain Morris

In today's regional roundup: Germany's Free Democrat Party (FDP) has some ideas about how to fund the country's digital architecture; Vodafone brings NB-IoT services to Ireland; French competitive operator Iliad keeps growing; Germany's mobilcom-debitel hooks up to iPass; and NTT Communications adds to its European data center empire.

  • Germany's Free Democrat Party (FDP), which could figure in a future coalition government following an election on September 24, has said it would sell government stakes in Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and Deutsche Post and use the proceeds to build a gigabit-speed national network. In a brief election manifesto, the FDP slammed vectoring, the copper-based broadband technology being deployed by Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), as an "outdated technology" and said its moves would "give the go-ahead for the Herculean task of expanding the glass fiber network nationwide." The suggestion in the manifesto is that a new government-backed fiber network would be managed on open access principles, allowing "all Internet providers to rent transmission capacity." Germany's government currently owns a 14.5% stake in Deutsche Telekom directly, and another 17.4% through state-owned bank KfW. Given Deutsche Telekom's current market capitalization of €72.2 billion (US$86 billion), those shares are currently worth about €23 billion ($27 billion). The pledge may alarm shareholders in Deutsche Telekom, Germany's telecom incumbent, which recently defended its vectoring rollout against charges the technology is not sufficient for Germany's broadband needs. Deutsche Telekom has resisted making any major commitments to a fiber-to-the-premises deployment, citing concern about costs and fretting that it would be forced to open that network to rivals on regulated terms. During a recent earnings update, however, CFO Thomas Dannenfeldt said Deutsche Telekom would increase spending on FTTP networks starting in 2019. (See DT to Ramp Up FTTH Capex Starting in 2019.)

  • Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) appears to have finally launched NB-IoT services in Ireland, missing its original deadline for rollout by five months. In a press release the operator said it had now upgraded existing 4G basestations throughout Ireland to support NB-IoT, one of several network technologies that could support demand for low-power, wide-area connectivity in future. Vodafone had been targeting commercial launches of NB-IoT networks in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain by the end of March this year, but earlier this year told Light Reading it would miss those launch targets in Ireland and the Netherlands. Having activated a Dutch NB-IoT network earlier in the summer, it revealed in August that services were available across nine Dutch cities. Vodafone also provides NB-IoT services in some of Spain's biggest cities. The situation in Germany is less clear, although Vodafone stated during its most recent update that it was working on customer trials in the country. (See Eurobites: Vodafone Goes Dutch With NB-IoT and Vodafone to Miss NB-IoT Launch Targets.)

  • Iliad (Euronext: ILD), the competitive French operator that has transformed the country's communications services landscape during the past decade, continues to grow its revenues and customer base. For the first six months of 2017, the operator, which offers its services under the brand Free, reported a 7.3% year-on-year rise in revenues to €2.46 billion ($2.93 billion), while its EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) increased by 8.2% year-on-year to €875 million ($1.04 billion). Iliad now has 13 million mobile customers (having added 440,000 during the first half of this year), and 6.5 million fixed broadband customers, of which 420,000 are FTTH subscribers (having added 110,000 during the first half). Iliad's share price gained 1.9% in Friday trading on the Paris exchange to €221.00. (See Iliad Reports First Half 2017.)

  • Wi-Fi access services specialist iPass Inc. (Nasdaq: IPAS) has struck a deal with Mobilise, a supplier of consultancy, software and managed services to the Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) market, to provide an international Wi-Fi access service to German operator mobilcom-debitel. The agreement means the 12 million mobile customers signed up to mobilcom-debitel, which is part freenet Group, will be able to access Wi-Fi access points in millions of locations around the world. The service will be included in selected tariff plans and offered as a tariffed option to other mobilcom-debitel postpaid customers. iPass claims to have the world's largest Wi-Fi network, with more than 62 million hotspots in over 180 countries.

  • NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT), the ICT solutions and international comms business unit of the giant Japanese operator, has launched a new data center in Bonn, Germany, through its subsidiary e-shelter, which it acquired in 2015. The two-story Rhein-Ruhr 1 offers 2,700 square meters of server space, equivalent to 1,100 racks. In Europe, NTT Com offers data center services in Austria, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. (See NTT Making Aggressive Data Center Push.)

  • Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine is still proclaiming that there's nothing untoward about his role at Telecom Italia (TIM) , reports Light Reading's sister publication Telecoms.com.

    — Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, and Ray Le Maistre, International Man of Mystery, Light Reading

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