Eurobites: Vodacom South Africa 'decouples' from parent company

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Northern Ireland turns away from the UK's COVID-19 app; 5G fails to capture the imagination; Openreach tweaks product terms as office lock-out continues.

  • Vodafone has decided to "decouple" Vodacom South Africa from the rest of the Vodacom Group in a move that the higher-ups hope will simplify its structure and help Vodacom in its ambition of becoming a "leading Pan African technology company." Balesh Sharma, currently leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as the director of special projects for the Vodafone Group, will head up the newly divested company. Existing Vodacom executives Beverly Ngwenya and Sitho Mdlalose will join the new Vodacom South Africa as technology director and financial director respectively. For more details, see this story on our sister site, Connecting Africa.

  • Northern Ireland's minister of health is discouraging people from downloading the UK's NHS-branded COVID-19 contact-tracing app, which is currently being tested on the Isle of Wight. According to Sky News, Robin Swann said that it was "not compulsory" for residents to download the NHS app and that Northern Ireland's devolved administration was working on its own version of the app, which would run on a decentralized model and work with the app being developed in the neighboring Republic of Ireland. The UK's version of the app, meanwhile, seems to have been re-cast as an "additional component" to a wider, more traditional test-and-trace system that is due to launch on June 1, according to a Reuters report. (See Eurobites: UK's NHS goes its own way on COVID-19 app.)

  • When it comes to 5G, UK businesses just aren't feeling it – and neither is the man or woman in the street. Those are the findings of a new study from Global Wireless Solutions (GWS), which describes itself as a mobile network benchmarking firm. While just over half of UK businesses say 5G is already important to them, only a fifth rank the provision of 5G applications and services in their top three mobile priorities over the next 12 months, preferring instead to lose sleep over consistent voice call accessibility and better connectivity for remote networking. As for the great British public, fewer than one in five agree that the speed of the new technology will fundamentally change the way they use their phones.

  • Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, has agreed to waive the standard notification period for changes being proposed by Openreach, BT's semi-detached network access division, to the way it offers some of its wholesale products. The changes are being proposed in response to COVID-19 – for example, customers who have bought EAD 100 and EAD 1000 products from Openreach will be offered the option of pausing the start of their service for up to 90 days from the date of their connection being installed, as the pandemic means that many offices are currently empty and therefore will not be making use of their new connections.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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