Eurobites: Ekholm Takes the Reins at Ericsson

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Cornerstone negotiations; €1.4 million raised for voice-call app for deaf people; tumbleweed in London's Tech City; the Internet of Posh Shirts.

  • A new chapter begins today for Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), with the beleaguered vendor's new president and CEO, Börje Ekholm, taking office. The appointment was announced in October, following the sacking of Hans Vestberg in the summer after a string of disappointing results. Jan Frykhammar, who has temporarily held the position as president and CEO, remains a member of the executive leadership team and becomes EVP and advisor to the CEO. When his appointment was announced, in the fall, Ekholm indicated that further cost cutting will be a priority, though he offered little detail on his long-term plans. (See Is Ekholm Ericsson's Savior or Seller?, Ericsson Appoints Investor AB's Ekholm as New CEO and Cost Cutting Must Continue, Says Ericsson's New CEO.)

  • Vodafone UK and Telefónica UK Ltd. (trading under the O2 brand) are reported to be renegotiating a network-sharing deal in the face of competition from incumbent BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA). According to a report from the UK's Telegraph newspaper, which cites senior industry sources, tension has grown between the two mobile operators, which share infrastructure through a joint venture called Cornerstone, with Vodafone looking for greater "autonomy" over infrastructure in urban areas. Vodafone is also said to be concerned about what the Telegraph report describes as O2's "sluggish maintenance performance." Following last year's takeover of EE , BT has become the country's biggest mobile operator and is now pumping funds into the expansion of its 4G network. Vodafone and O2 declined to provide any comment to the Telegraph regarding the Cornerstone negotiations.

  • TIM Ventures, the venture capital arm of Telecom Italia (TIM) , together with Invitalia Ventures and Prinicpia SGRT, has led a €1.4 million (US$1.48 million) Series A investment in Pedius, the company behind a mobile app which allows deaf people to make "normal" phone calls using voice recognition and speech synthesis technology. The platform is currently available in nine countries, including Italy, France, the UK, Spain and the US.

  • High rents in London's so-called Tech City are proving a turn-off for would-be tech startups, according to a report in the Daily Mail. The area, in the east of the UK capital, was established six years ago by the then Prime Minister David Cameron as a small-scale equivalent to Silicon Valley in the US, but official figures cited in the report show that the number of new openings in Tech City fell by 70% in 2016, from 10,280 in 2015 to just 3,070.

  • BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) has deployed the Acuitas Digital Internet of Things (IoT) platform at the upmarket clothing retailer Thomas Pink in New York. The pilot will allow the retailer to "track in real time the movement of merchandise and people around the store, use big data analytics to predict shopper behavior and provide a foundation for real-time interactive in-store experiences." Yikes. And to think you only went in for a pair of underpants.

  • Facebook is to roll out online tools in Germany that it says will help users combat the scourge of "fake news," the BBC reports. The tools will enable users in Germany to flag up suspect news stories which will then be passed to "third-party fact checkers" and be tagged in users' personal news feeds as "disputed." Facebook took some flak for publishing fake news that many believe helped this charmer become the leader of the Free World.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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