Eurobites: Spain postpones 5G auction as COVID-19 tightens its grip

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Nokia offers "AI as a service"; more virus-related reassurance; Spongebob Squarepants to the rescue!

  • Spain, which is suffering more than most under the cosh of the new coronavirus, has bowed to the inevitable and postponed its 5G spectrum auction. As Reuters reports, the Spanish government was due to have freed up space in the 700MHz band by switching from analogue to digital terrestrial TV by June 30, but this clearly not now going to happen. A new deadline for the 700MHz band will be set in due course, once the current crisis has eased. COVID-19 had infected 85,915 people and killed 7,340 in Spain as of Monday.

  • Nokia has launched what it describes an "AI as a service" offering which it claims will help communications service providers "transform their network, service and business operations through the application of AI, automation and cloud scalability." According to the vendor, Nokia AVA 5G Cognitive Operations, as it calls its new product, combines data science, machine learning and cloud expertise to "bring AI to life."

  • There's a lot of reassuring going on out there at the moment, for obvious reasons. Amsterdam-headquartered VEON, which has its trading heartland in and around Russia, has issued a statement telling worried investors that its business "possesses the capital strength and financial flexibility to operate normally during these uncertain times." It adds that its cost-cutting over the past 18 months has ensured that its financial foundations can weather the current storm.

  • Similarly, the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO) has put out a statement that poses the brutal question "Is COVID19 going to break my internet?" and answers it with a resolute "No." The trade body goes on: "We are observing changes in the pattern of telecoms and internet traffic: peaks change in terms of location and time, as people move to work from home. However, this is currently being dealt with by providers thanks to sophisticated and upgraded network architectures."

  • O2 UK, which forms part of the Telefónica empire, is to remove the cap on voice minutes, allowing unlimited domestic calls for all postpaid customers. The policy comes into effect from the end of next week, and will be reviewed as the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold.

  • COVID-19 has persuaded Nordics operator Telia Company to shorten the agenda at its forthcoming (April 2) annual general meeting and encourage all shareholders to authorize Euroclear as a proxy holder rather than attending the meeting in person. For those wanting to go down this route, an original proxy form must be available to Euroclear Sweden today (Tuesday) at the latest.

  • More data usage pattern news, this time courtesy of UK mobile operator EE: It seems a huge number of people are using their smartphones to tune into Prime Minster Boris Johnson's daily briefings on the coronavirus crisis, with data consumption on EE more than doubling during these times. Also, the closure of gyms means that outdoor exercise is the order of the day for those so inclined, which is leading to lunchtime surges in data use for apps such as Garmin as stir-crazy homeworkers hit the road. Conversely, the massive reduction in car travel means that data generated by the likes of Google Maps, Uber and Lyft has fallen off a cliff.

    The Boris effect
    When the UK Prime Minister speaks, the UK nation listens. Apparently.
    When the UK Prime Minister speaks, the UK nation listens. Apparently.

  • Spongebob Squarepants to the rescue! Virgin Media is taking pity on all the parents stuck at home with their kids right now by offering its TV customers seven of its most popular children's channels at no extra cost until April 21. This television upgrade is available to customers on Virgin's Player, Mixit (without Kids TV pick) and Maxit (without Kids TV pick) bundles at no extra cost. Eligible customers don't have to do anything and there will be no change to their contract.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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