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Eurobites: COVID-19 strikes French 5G spectrum auction

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: A1 Austria touts analytics tech for coronavirus fight; virus plays havoc with shareholder meetings; KPN, VodafoneZiggo win access case.

  • France's 5G spectrum auction appears to be the latest victim of COVID-19. After Reuters reported speculation from Iliad's CEO, Thomas Reynaud, that a postponement of the auction was "likely," a spokeswoman for Arcep, the French communications regulator, confirmed to Bloomberg that the auction, due to take place in mid-April, would happen at a later date, once more information was made available. On Tuesday, the French government imposed a near-total lockdown on its population for two weeks in a bid to slow the march of the pandemic.

  • In related matters, operator A1 Austria is touting its collaboration with analytics company Invenium, which uses anonymized data from smartphones to visualize the movement of groups of people, as a possible tool in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. Invenium is a spinoff from the Graz University of Technology.

  • The COVID-19 crisis is also playing havoc with vendors' shareholder meetings. In the light of the Finnish government's decree banning public gatherings of more than ten people, Nokia has canceled its annual general meeting, which was due to have been held on April 8. A new date will be provided in due course. "Furthermore," says the company in a statement, "in line with our mission to create the technology to connect the world and as a forerunner of offering our shareholders an on-line advance voting solution in the Finnish market, Nokia strongly advocates for measures to allow fully virtual general meetings to enable efficient shareholder participation." Rival Ericsson, however, is pressing ahead with its AGM on March 31, but President and CEO Börje Ekholm will not attend in person, participating instead by video link. Ericsson intends to offer a live webcast of the AGM and shareholders who are individuals will have the option to vote via proxy – a strategy also being adopted by Telia Company at its AGM on April 2.

  • Dutch incumbent KPN saw its share price rise on Tuesday following the news, reported by Reuters, that an appeals court had ruled that KPN and VodafoneZiggo do not have to open up their fixed-line networks to competition. The country's consumer watchdog, ACM, had argued the pair had too much control over the retail Internet market.

  • Belgium's Proximus has renewed its contract with US-based cloud services company Synchronoss for another three years. The contract extension means that Proximus customers will continue to have access to the Synchronoss Personal Cloud for backup purposes, either for free (10GB of storage a month) or for a monthly fee (for much more storage).

  • The UK's Advertising Standards Authority has been busy rapping mobile operators' knuckles this week. BT received a whack because of an ad campaign centered on "Wi-Fi discs" which the operator claimed offered guaranteed Wi-Fi in every room of the house and which failed to make clear said discs needed to be actually plugged into an electrical socket. (Footage of a woman enjoying disc-driven Wi-Fi nirvana whilst having a bath didn't help.) Also on the receiving end of the Authority's wrath is O2, which was deemed to have used misleading advertising in its O2 Refresh campaign, advancing the claim that O2 wouldn't keep charging customers for a mobile phone they already owned, whereas other networks would.

  • Meanwhile, back in COVID-19 lockdown land, UK pay-TV giant Sky has teamed up with NBCUniversal to make a range of movies available to rent at home through Sky Store on the same day as they were due to premiere in cinemas, if only all the cinemas hadn't been closed because of the coronavirus. Trolls World Tour is first up, available on April 6.

  • BT-owned mobile operator EE is to allow postpaid customers to make and receive calls via their Alexa-enabled devices, such as the Amazon Echo smart speaker. The hands-free service, which is available at no extra cost, even works when the paired phone in question has run out of juice.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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