Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), Orange (NYSE: FTE), and the UK's broadband strategy are on the specials board in today's menu of Euro telecom news nibbles.
It's a busy time for Vodafone, with The Guardian reporting that the global mobile group is getting close to selling its 44 percent stake in French operator SFR . Vodafone's CEO, Vittorio Colao, is also thought to be about to announce an £800 million (US$1.25 billion) deal involving the disposal of its 24 percent stake in Poland's Polkomtel SA . It's all part of the group's plan to dispose of minority stakes in operators worldwide that aren't proving their worth. (See Vodafone Updates Strategy, Profit Outlook.)
Meanwhile, on the UK's Christmas-shopper-packed high streets, the same newspaper also reports that protesters have been showing their displeasure st the way that Vodafone organises its tax affairs. Several of the operator's stores were unable to function last Friday as megaphones, superglue and sheer force of numbers were employed to make a point. Fashion retailer Topshop, owned by tax-savvy multi-millionaire Sir Philip Green, got the same treatment.
The occasionally mispronounced UK Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will today give a speech at Microsoft's London office in which he adds detail to his government's broadband strategy, reports the BBC. In a nutshell, Hunt says that the aim is for Britain to have Europe's "best" broadband network by 2015, with the private sector providing most of the infrastructure for super-fast fiber and money from the BBC's TV license fee helping to fund "digital hubs" to fill in the rural gaps. Conveniently, perhaps, the government stops short how defining just how fast "super-fast" should be.
In France, Industry Minister Eric Besson said that the auction of 4G spectrum is still on course to be completed by summer 2011, reports Reuters, though prices and conditions remain unspecified. France Telecom, SFR, Bouygues Telecom , and Iliad (Euronext: ILD) will no doubt be eager to hear the full details. In preparation for these auctions, French regulator Arcep has granted temporary authorisations to operators who want to carry out LTE trials in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, reports Cellular News.