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Eurobites: Finland fires up second 5G spectrum auction

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: England's mobile phone stores prepare to reopen; Openreach encourages Scotland to spend big on digital infrastructure; Sky plans canned noise for supporter-less soccer matches.

  • Finland has fired the starting gun on its second auction of 5G spectrum, with three 800MHz bands in the 25.1-27.5GHz range up for grabs. As Reuters reports, the Finnish government granted 5G licenses in the 3.5GHz band in 2018, and operators began constructing their networks at the start of 2019. The next round of network construction will be able to start in July, once the winning bids have been announced, said Finland's Ministry of Transport and Communications.

  • England's mobile operators are getting ready to reopen their stores as the country's COVID-19 restrictions begin to be eased. EE, which is owned by BT, will begin a phased reopening of its retail outlets on June 15. A limited number of customers will be allowed in the stores at any one time and "virtual queueing" system will be in operation, allowing customers to pre-book consultations with store assistants. Two of EE's stores in Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK but has different coronavirus guidelines in place, are due to open today (Monday). Three UK, meanwhile, says it will reopen more than 250 stores in England on June 15, with appropriate measures implemented. Its stores in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, however, will reopen at a later date. But the face of mobile phone retailing is changing fast, and it is probably debatable how long these reopened stores will stay open: Only last month Virgin Media, the UK cable operator that also sells a mobile service, said it would close its remaining 53 high street stores even when the COVID-19 crisis has passed. (See Eurobites: Virgin Media set to vanish from UK high street.)

  • Openreach, BT's semi-detached network access division, has called on the Scottish government to make investment in the digital economy a priority during recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking at a meeting of the Openreach Scotland board, Openreach CEO Clive Selley echoed calls by the Committee on Climate Change, which advises the UK and devolved governments on green matters, to focus on broadband over investment in more traditional forms of connectivity, like the road network. More than 2.6 million Scottish premises can currently access fiber-based broadband services over the Openreach network, says the company. (See Eurobites: Openreach Talks Up the Fiber Effect and Eurobites: Openreach Looks Further Down the Fiber Road.)

  • Inwit, the Italian towers company, has appointed Michelangelo Suigo as its head of external relations and communication. Previously Suigo has worked for Vodafone and the Italian government.

  • Soccer's English Premier League is due to resume on June 17, but behind closed doors, which raises the issue of atmosphere – or the lack of it – for those watching the action on their TVs at home. Sky Sports, which is showing live coverage of 64 of the matches, is hoping to address this with the introduction of Sky Sports Crowds, a feature that will supply "bespoke and team-specific crowd noise and chants to replicate the vibrant atmosphere of Premier League clashes." (Presumably the obscenities and casual racism will be edited out.) Also available to sofa-based supporters will be the Sky Sports Fanzone, which will allow friends to engage in Zoom-style video chats while the action unfolds.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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