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Eurobites: Vodafone Livid as German Regulator Approves DT's Vectoring Plans

Ray Le Maistre
4/8/2016
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Also in today's regional roundup: Orange appoints healthcare services chief; M&A in the UK's managed services sector; Spanish FTTH lines top 3.4 million; Ciena lands utility network deal in Germany.

  • German regulator Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA) has rejected complaints from the country's competitive operators about the market impact of Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT)'s plans to invest further in its copper broadband access network, reports Reuters. DT is investing heavily in vectoring technology, rather than FTTH, in an effort to compete with Germany's cable broadband operators, but alternative operators such as Vodafone Germany and United Internet AG complained that the incumbent's plans will prevent them from being able to offer differentiated services in urban markets and instead restrict them to being resellers of DT services. But the regulator, which originally approved DT's vectoring plans in November 2015, believes DT's plans will not impair competition or deter investment in rival networks. Vodafone, as you'd imagine, isn't happy. "In Vodafone’s view, the German regulator is wrong to support short-term incremental upgrades to Germany’s outdated copper telephone networks rather than support investment in the future-proof fibre networks that Germany needs. The proposal will put Germany on the wrong side of progress" and "leave German citizens and industry at a technological standstill," it noted in a public policy statement issued early Friday. Vodafone also urged the European Commission to "look closely at what is proposed." (See Vodafone Calls for Broadband Regulation Shake-Up in Germany.)

  • Orange (NYSE: FTE) has appointed e-health industry expert Elie Lobel as the CEO of Orange Healthcare, which becomes a subsidiary within Orange Business Services . "The arrival of Elie Lobel, who has been chosen for his expertise, confirms the ambitions of Orange in the field of healthcare," stated Thierry Bonhomme, CEO of Orange Business Services, in the official announcement. "2016 will be a big year for Orange Healthcare, focused on the development of innovative services in care treatment, home support for patients with diminishing autonomy, Big Data and data security, and digital healthcare services in general," he added. The move is further evidence of Orange's efforts to diversify its business beyond traditional communications services.

  • UK managed communications and systems integration services firm Maintel is to acquire Azzurri Communications , which provides a range of comms and cloud services to British business users, for £48.5 million (US$68.2 million), about half of Azzurri's annual revenues run rate. To fund the acquisition, Maintel, which today also announced a 21% increase in 2015 full year revenues to £50.6 million ($71.2 million), aims to raise £24 million ($33.8 million) from a new share issue. Azzurri has struggled since it was acquired by private equity firm PPM Capital (now Silverfleet Capital) for £182.5 million ($257 million) in 2006: A consortium of banks wrested control of Azzurri in 2011 and wrote off £224 million ($315 million) of debt. Maintel, though, believes it can revive Azzurri's fortunes, noting that the deal will "provide Maintel with enhanced scale and visibility, an attractive customer base, enhancement of operations, a broader product offering" and "allow further capability expansion," as well as immediately enhance its earnings. (See Maintel to Buy Azzurri Communications.)

  • The total number of FTTH lines in Spain grew by 157,116 in February this year to take the total to 3.42 million, of which 2.37 million are provided by Telefónica under its Movistar brand, according to the latest market figures released by regulator CNMC. During the same month, the number of DSL lines fell by 146,449. In total, Spain has 13.26 million fixed broadband connections, of which 7.37 million at DSL lines and 2.47 million are cable broadband lines. Telefónica boasts a 43.8% market share, Orange (now including Jazztel) commands a 28.6% share and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) (including cable operator ONO) a 22.7% market share.

  • Altice -owned French operator Numericable-SFR has raised $5.19 billion from the sale of 10-year bonds to institutional investors in what has been described as a "record-breaking" debt refinancing transaction. See this Reuters report for more details.

  • Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), in partnership with systems integrator Kapsch CarrierCom AG , has won a deal to supply its 6500 Packet-Optical Platform and unified management software to German utility player Open Grid Europe, which is building a new packet transport backbone network to support its 12,000-kilometer gas transmission infrastructure. "With Ciena and Kapsch we have the infrastructure for intelligent coordination and smart network monitoring, which means we can focus on ensuring that the transmission of Germany’s natural gas is dependable and efficient," noted Claus Meyer, Open Grid Europe's Head of Technical Operations, in a prepared statement.

  • Private equity firm 3i has acquired a 36% stake in independent UK mobile masts operating firm Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG) for £75 million ($105 million). WIG CEO Scott Coates noted that the investment "provides us with the financial capabilities needed to scale up our business through investment in up to £1 billion [$1.4 billion] of new infrastructure. This will transform our ability to support our customers as they extend network coverage in rural areas and improve capacity in urban centres." See this press release for more details.

    — Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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