June 28, 2019
Also in today's regional roundup: Orange offloads its BT stake; Nokia's CTO rebuked over Huawei comments; Ericsson helps bring 5G to Spain and Romanio; Brit design star quits Apple.
A change to the board at Telecom Italia (TIM) suggests a cessation in the long-standing battle between the main shareholders, French media giant Vivendi and hedge fund Elliott Management. Former CEO Amos Genish, who was dismissed in dramatic fashion last year, has finally resigned from the board, having agreed a €4.2 million (US$4.7 million) golden goodbye, and been replaced by Frank Cadoret: Although Cadoret is a senior executive at Vivendi subsidiary Canal + Group, where he is the CEO for France, his nomination was unanimously approved, suggesting a thaw in the relationship between the rival shareholders. "The Board welcomed the renewed dialogue which resulted in the unanimous vote on the aforementioned cooptation, and wishes for the continuation and strengthening of such dialogue between shareholders that shall lead to a shared and finally stable governance," noted the operator in a press release. Let's see if Elliott and Vivendi can keep the peace from now on as they deal with the pressing matters of TIM's €28.4 billion ($32.1 billion) debt pile and the future of its broadband access network assets. (See Telecom Italia in talks with Open Fiber to create broadband giant.)
Orange has sold its 2.5% stake in BT for £486 million ($616 million). The French operator held 248 million shares and has sold them all, with BT itself buying 41 million of the tranche.
Nokia's chief technology officer, Marcus Weldon, is in the corporate koirankoppi following an interview with the BBC during which he reportedly called his company's equipment a "safer bet" than rival Huawei's. Weldon cited a report from US firm Finite State which pointed to perceived vulnerabilities in the Chinese vendor's gear and described the pressure being exerted on Huawei by the US as "fairness returning to the market." Well, it's one interpretation and one not appreciated at Nokia HQ, it seems: The vendor today released a statement noting that "comments made by a Nokia executive to the BBC on 27 June 2019 regarding the possible impact of the use of a competitor's products on the security of UK telecom networks ... do not reflect the official position of Nokia. Nokia is focused on the integrity of its own products and services and does not have its own assessment of any potential vulnerabilities associated with its competitors." (See Nokia CEO Finds Positive Spin in Long 5G Game.)
Ericsson is trumpeting its latest 5G launches, one in Spain and the other in Romania. In Spain, the Swedish vendor has helped Vodafone launch commercial 5G services in the northern cities of La Coruña, Vigo and Gijón, while in Romania it has done the same for DIGI, which has fired up 5G in the busiest parts of the capital, Bucharest.
Brit uber-designer Jony Ive, who helped revolutionize the world of telecom with his shaping of Apple's iPhone after having already designed several iconic Apple products, is leaving the Cupertino-based giant after 27 years in its service. Ive, who joined fellow industry luminaries in Light Reading's Hall of Fame in 2015, is setting up his own consultancy, LoveFrom, with Apple already lined up as one its first clients. (See Light Reading Hall of Fame 2015.) Figure 1: Here's Jony The iMac was one of Jony Ive's iconic design hits for Apple, before he helped transform the telecom landscape with the iPhone.
Sweden's Tele2 has closed the sale of its equity share in its joint venture in Kazakhstan to Kazakhtelecom, for US$169 million. Tele2 follows in the footsteps of Nordic rival Telia, which exited Kazakhstan in 2018 after divesting its stake in Kcell.
UK communications regulator Ofcom has confirmed that the "final decisions" it reached in May regarding new rules governing access to Openreach's ducts and poles really are final. Henceforth, says Ofcom, companies laying high-speed fiber for broadband and mobile networks will "benefit from greater access to Openreach's existing infrastructure of telegraph poles and underground tunnels." Openreach is the quasi-autonomous network access arm of BT. (See Eurobites: Ofcom Opens Up BT's Ducts Some More.)
EE, the UK mobile operator owned by BT, has launched what it says are Britain's first 5G mobile broadband plans, which come with an HTC-built "smart hub" that allows customers to create a 5G-powered WiFi hotspot for 4K video streaming, low-latency gaming and so on while they are on the move. The smart hub is available from EE with 5G for an upfront fee of £100 ($126) with either 50GB of monthly data on a £50 ($63) per month, 24-month 5GEE WiFi plan, or with 100GB on a £75 ($95) per month plan. EE has so far launched 5G in
— Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading
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