Eurobites: EU wants more progress on 5G, AI

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: WindTre chooses Ericsson for 5G standalone; BT and Openreach strike continues; Jurassic Fibre hires new CEO.

  • For all their good intentions, European Union member states are still lagging behind some other parts of the world when it comes to the rollout of 5G networks. That's one of the findings in the latest Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), published by the European Commission. "Efforts need to be stepped up to ensure the full deployment of connectivity infrastructure (notably 5G) that is required for highly innovative services and applications," said the Commission. The index also found that businesses' adoption of key digital technologies – such as artificial intelligence and "big data" analytics – remains worryingly low.

  • Italy's WindTre has gone with Ericsson's technology to support its transition to 5G standalone (5G SA). The long-term agreement will see WindTre bring its 4G, 5G non-standalone and 5G standalone services into a dual-mode 5G core that combines Evolved Packet Core and 5G core network functions into a common cloud-native platform.

  • The UK's so-called summer of discontent continues today with the second 24-hour strike by thousands of BT and Openreach workers belonging to the Communication Workers Union (CWU). As the Guardian reports, the strikers are after a better pay deal from their bosses – an offered universal £1,500 (US$1,836) pay increase has been rejected by the CWU as being a real-terms pay cut in the light of growing inflation.

  • Jurassic Fibre, a full-fiber broadband provider based in the southwest of England, has appointed Paul Hellings as its new CEO, replacing founder Michael Maltby, who is moving to a non-executive director role. Hellings started his career as an engineer at the BBC, though most recently he was CEO at Shell Energy UK.

  • Amsterdam-based (but Russia-focused) VEON has appointed Alex Bollis as a special advisor to the group CEO and CFO. Previously Bollis was VEON's head of corporate strategy, communications and investor relations. According to a VEON statement, Bollis will "focus on special projects concerning both the Group and specific countries" in his new role.

  • One in seven UK customers are still paying what is effectively a "loyalty penalty" when it comes to broadband, mobile and mortgages, according to a report from consumer-rights organization Citizens Advice. Indeed, analysis of 165,000 budgets of people who came to Citizens Advice for help with their debts found those with the lowest incomes spend almost double the proportion of their income on telecom than the highest earners. The report cites the case of one individual in receipt of disability benefits who signed up for a £30 ($37) a month package which included TV, landline, broadband and international calls in 2006. In January of this year she discovered that her bill had increased to £80 ($90) over the years despite, she claims, never having been notified by the provider of any price rises. This is not the first time Citizens Advice has sounded the alarm bells about this: In September 2018 it submitted a "super complaint" about the apparent loyalty penalty at work in these markets. By 2020, the sectors' regulators had found a combined loyalty penalty of £3.4 billion every year, says the organization.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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