Eurobites: Ericsson and Volvo drive 5G across the border

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: O2/Virgin Media merger gets the official green light; Altice France revenue up 2.9% in Q1; what sports fans think of sports tech.

  • Ericsson and carmaker Volvo have carried out what they claim is the first successful test handover of connected cars between two national mobile 5G networks. The test, which took place at the AstaZero test track in Sweden and is a precursor to larger-scale 5G connected car trials between France, Germany and Luxembourg, deployed Ericsson's 5G radio network while two Volvo cars received an HD map of the route ahead. The cars were able to send real-time updates to the mobile edge cloud, allowing cars following in their wake to benefit from new information about the route ahead.

  • It's official: Following a provisional clearance last month, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority has officially sanctioned the 50:50 merger of Telefónica UK (O2) and Virgin Media. The CMA was initially concerned that the combined entity could abuse its position in the supply of wholesale services to other mobile operators, but after an "in-depth Phase 2 investigation" it has concluded that everything is hunky-dory. Incredibly, the respective CEOs of the parent companies, José Maria Alvarez-Pallete of Telefónica and Mike Fries of Liberty Global, came up with the exact same quote regarding the CMA's decision: "This is a watershed moment in the history of telecommunications in the UK as we are now cleared to bring real choice where it hasn't existed before, while investing in fibre and 5G that the UK needs to thrive." (See Virgin Media and O2 merger cleared for take-off, O2 and Virgin Media to merge in £31.4B deal and Eurobites: Virgin Media, O2 merger faces in-depth review.)

  • Altice France saw EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) inch up 0.7% year-on-year in its first quarter, on total revenue that rose 2.9% . The operator reiterated its guidance for full-year 2021. Earlier this week, Altice France announced it had signed an agreement to acquire a 100% stake in MVNO Afone Participations, a deal which means that the operator becomes a partner of the Leclerc Group.

  • Eir, the incumbent Irish operator, blamed a combination of COVID-19 and ongoing declines in "traditional access and voice revenues" for a 3% fall in reported revenue, to €299 million (US$364.7 million), in its financial third quarter ending March 31, 2021. EBITDA remained stable, at €154 million ($187.8 million). In terms of sign-ups, broadband customer numbers grew by 16,000 to 970,000, while there was 2% growth on the mobile side, taking Eir's total to 1.189 million.

  • Sweden-based audio streaming giant Spotify has teamed up with Storytel, an audiobook company (also from Sweden), in a move that will allow Storytel's subscribers to access its library via Spotify. Spotify is moving increasingly into spoken-word territory as competition on the music side of things intensifies from the deep-pocketed likes of Apple and Amazon.

  • UK soccer fans don't mind goal-line technology but they hate video assistant referees (VAR). These were among the findings of a BT-sponsored survey of fans' attitudes to fancy-dan technical innovations that have changed sport – and the way that TV covers it. Regarding the latter, 360-degree camera views and spider/drone camera got the thumbs-up from fans, while live streaming via mobile and 4K/HDR picture quality also raised a cheer. The survey was commissioned by BT Sport to mark the launch of Innovate 21, a new competition that BT hopes will find the next big technological innovation in sports broadcasting.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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