Eurobites: News from the EU
PCCW Slows U.K. Network Launch
PCCW Ltd.'s (NYSE: PCW; Hong Kong: 0008) plans to roll out a U.K. wireless broadband network have taken a hit this week following reports that the nationwide launch of its Netvigator service -- from local subsidiary UK Broadband -- has had to be scaled back.
Deploying kit from startup vendor IPWireless Inc., the venture launched a trial service in May and claimed it would follow with “national rollout plans for this new generation service in the UK and Northern Ireland.” (See PCCW Fixes UK Wireless and IPWireless Powers PCCW.)
PCCW now appears to have reneged on its earlier bullish ambitions. “We will take a step-by-step approach... after evaluating the market environment in the U.K. and studying the learnings of the initial soft launch period,” the company told the Financial Times.
Anglo-Greek entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou is believed to be on the verge of inking a network deal with T-Mobile (UK) that will push the easyMobile brand into the U.K. market.
In August, easyGroup signed a deal with Danish operator TDC A/S, with the carrier providing billing and customer service for easyMobile as the venture is rolled out across Europe (see TDC to Launch Easy MVNO). It now looks increasingly likely that T-Mobile will provide the wholesale services and network capacity for the U.K. launch.
The partnership aims to sell cheap SIM cards online to users who already have a handset. An interesting idea, but analysts reckon the deal will leave rival carriers fretting over a price war.
“Given easyGroup’s intention to roll out its service in ten European countries, there must be lots of nail-biting going on at the various network operators,” note Ovum Ltd. analysts Daniel Bieler and Carrie Pawsey in a research note. “By facilitating such a deal T-Mobile will not have made many friends.”
Finnish 3G: One In, One (Maybe) Out
Employees at Finnish carrier Elisa Corp. will be partying hard this weekend following the company’s successful launch of commercial 3G W-CDMA services (see Elisa Launches 3G). The Elisa network is the second commercial 3G network to be launched in Finland following TeliaSonera AB's (Nasdaq: TLSN) rollout last month (see Sonera Set to Launch UMTS).
Meanwhile rival Tele2 AB (Nasdaq: TLTO) might be found drowning its sorrows in a bottle of local Finlandia following a threat from the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications to revoke the carrier’s 3G license if it doesn’t demonstrate plans for investment by January 7, 2005.
DoCoMo Eyes MMO2
NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) is believed to have struck a deal with mmO2 plc to launch its i-mode service in the U.K. market.
Let’s hope mmO2 is more successful at launching the service than previous European carriers. Despite a 42 million-strong fanbase in its home Japanese market, European launches of i-mode in 10 European countries have to date attracted only around three million subscribers.
BT: Clutching at Straws?
BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) has again been busy touting its £1 ($1.90) hotspot service package in an effort to boost subscriber figures, this time extending the deal to BT Mobile business customers following an earlier offering to corporate and consumer broadband customers (see BT Extends £1 WiFi Offer and BT Touts £1 WiFi).
Cynics will sneer that this is simply a last-ditch effort to save the service following the failure of public access wireless LAN to become a serious revenue generator, despite earlier massive hype surrounding the launch of hotspot services (see 802.11 Hotspots: A Burst Bubble?).
For its part, BT Openzone declines to divulge exactly how many subscribers it has signed up.
— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung