Eurobites: French 5G auction hits €2.4B

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Ericsson uses 5G for remote coronavirus testing; EU could make tech titans share customer data with smaller rivals; Switzerland, UK lead European 5G charge.

  • Day one of the delayed French 5G spectrum auction saw the minimum price for spectrum rise by €220 million (US$257 million) to around €2.4 billion ($2.8 billion), Reuters reports. Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Iliad are competing for the 10MHz blocks on offer, and by Tuesday evening the block price had risen to €90 million ($105 million). According to communications regulator Arcep, Orange is asking for five blocks, followed by SFR (three blocks), Bouygues Telecom (three blocks) and Iliad (two blocks). The build-up to the auction has been unusual: In recent months a group of Orange employees, calling themselves "Je Suis Si Vert" (I'm So Green), circulated memos arguing that 5G will not only be bad for the environment but unprofitable too. (See Orange faces staff dissent about 5G on eve of France's auction, France's Arcep outlines plan to hold 5G auction in September 2020 and French government itching for 5G action.)

  • Rostelecom, Tele2 and Ericsson have deployed a pilot 5G network at a conference in Russia to help monitor the health of visitors – and in particular their COVID-19 status. The pilot service, deployed on Tele2's network, enabled the remote health monitoring of visitors to the CIPR-2020 show, and included temperature checks and an overview of social distancing. Thermal imaging and mobile video terminals were installed and connected by commercially available offerings from Ericsson.

  • Tech titans such as Amazon and Google may be forced to share their customer data with smaller rivals under the terms of the European Union's forthcoming Digital Services Act legislation. That, at least, is the gist of a Financial Times report, cited by Reuters, that quotes what the newspaper says is an early draft of the proposed legislation. The draft also suggests that tech's big beasts will be banned from giving their own services preferential treatment on their platforms or pre-installing their own applications on devices, according to the FT.

  • New research from analyst firm Omdia has again ranked the UK seventh out of the 22 "leading 5G countries," with Switzerland, in the number-two slot, the only European country ahead of it. The rankings in the "Global 5G Progress Update" are based on commercial operator launches, network coverage, subscriber take-up, spectrum availability and the regulatory environment. Predictably, South Korea was by some margin the leader of the pack, with 5.8 million 5G subscribers.

  • Ekinops, the France-based optical transport specialist, has appointed Serbia's ALEF Distribucija ADRIA as its distributor across the Adriatic region.

  • Orange has teamed up with the Virtual University of Senegal (UVS) to launch a new online training platform, "Orange Campus Africa," which it hopes will allow university students to more easily access courses, particularly in the shadow of COVID-19. According to the operator, this platform tailors the training to local cultural contexts and allows for mobile payment in local currencies for "premium" services.

  • US-based Vonage, which is best known for its unified communications offerings, has landed a spot on the UK's G-Cloud 12 public-sector procurement platform for cloud services.

  • More than a quarter of Brits would prefer to use a health app than visit their actual, humanoid doctor, according to a new survey carried out by Quin, a digital health startup. Since the pandemic first reared its ugly head, usage of health apps has increased by 37%, says the study, though only 55% of those asked would trust a diagnosis provided by an app.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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