Eurobites: Huawei-less O2 closes 5G gap on BT

Also in today's EMEA regional round-up: Three finishes VoLTE rollout; Telefónica turns cybersecurity investor; earnings joy for ADVA; Nokia does more private wireless.

  • 5G lag? What 5G lag? O2, the UK operator that does not buy Chinese network equipment, claimed to have a service up and running in 108 towns and cities, a huge increase on the 60 it boasted in June. Counting Sweden's Ericsson and Finland's Nokia as its mobile network suppliers, O2 was unaffected by the recent UK decision to restrict and ultimately ban China's Huawei, which sells equipment to all three of O2's rivals – BT, Three and Vodafone. Critics of the move, including the operators, said it would delay the UK's 5G rollout and cost "billions," forcing companies to rip out and replace Huawei's equipment. Today's update means O2 has nearly closed the gap on market leader and Huawei user BT, which earlier this month said its 5G service was available in 112 towns and cities, up from 80 in June. Kester Mann, an analyst with CCS Insight, tweeted that O2 is "clearly ahead of schedule on rollout," having planned to provide a service in 50 towns and cities by the summer. Despite the frequent progress reports, none of the UK operators has so far said what percentage of the population is covered by its 5G network. (See Huawei avoidance strategy is paying off for UK's O2.)

  • Still in the UK, Three said it had completed its rollout of VoLTE services across the entire 4G network. VoLTE allows voice services to run on 4G technology and its nationwide availability could allow Three to switch off its 3G network in future. Today, it says, more than 80% of customers own VoLTE-enabled devices.

  • Spain's Telefónica, O2's parent company, said it would invest in up to 15 cybersecurity start-ups over the next three years through a new investment vehicle called Telefónica Tech Ventures. Managed by ElevenPaths, Telefónica's own cybersecurity company, and Telefónica Innovation Ventures (TIV), its VC arm, the new fund is already supporting nine cybersecurity start-ups drawn from the portfolios of TIV and Wayra, its global innovation hub. The plan is to focus on start-ups with expertise in threat intelligence, cloud security, data protection and artificial intelligence. Geographically, it aims to concentrate on its core strategic markets of Brazil, Germany, Spain and the UK but says it will also consider "other significant technological markets such as the US and Israel."

  • Germany's ADVA said a decision to move production facilities out of China had buoyed third-quarter profitability by reducing US tariffs. It also benefited from more favorable exchange rates and a cost-saving program it kicked off last year. Net income more than tripled, compared with the year-earlier period, to nearly €6.7 million (US$7.9 million), with sales up 1.1%, to about €147 million ($174 million). ADVA provides various network products for data, storage, voice and video services.

  • Finland's Nokia landed a deal to provide a private 5G network for the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany. It is teaming up with Smart Mobile Labs after the German company, which plans and builds campus networks, won the university's tender for five campus networks. The university says it needs a private 5G network so that its researchers "can explore 5G's ability to unleash new applications and use cases." Nokia said it would supply technology based on the standalone variant of 5G. (See Nokia preps 5G assault on 14M-site private wireless market.)

  • European semiconductor maker STMicroelectronics blamed pricing pressure for a decline in third-quarter profitability, reporting net income of $242 million – nearly a fifth less than in the year-earlier period. The setback came despite a 4.4% increase in sales, to almost $2.7 billion, amid strong demand for microcontrollers and radiofrequency communications chips. CEO Jean-Marc Chery said conditions had been better than expected during the quarter.

  • UK-based Synamedia, which develops software for TV set-top boxes, named Paul Segre its new CEO. Segre was previously the CEO of Genesys, a developer of call-center software, which was spun out of Alcatel-Lucent (now a part of Nokia) in 2012 and sold to European private equity firm Permira for €1.5 billion ($1.8 billion, at today's exchange rate). Segre will succeed Synamedia's departing CEO Yves Padrines.

    — Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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