Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: GCHQ deploys Smurf army, says Snowden; Safe Harbor ruling could spell trouble for Facebook and others; Telenet/BASE deal comes under scrutiny.
UK broadband player CityFibre is looking to add Vodafone UK to its growing list of service provider customers, having just signed a contract with the mobile operator allowing it to supply fiber connectivity to cell sites and Vodafone's "corporate customer locations." CityFibre, which is investing in wholesale fiber networks in a number of UK cities and towns, has already agreed to provide such mobile backhaul services to MBNL, a joint infrastructure venture between EE and Three UK , the biggest and smallest of the country's four mobile network operators respectively. But it may struggle to hang on to this deal following a takeover of EE by UK fixed-line incumbent BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) in early 2016 and has been hoping to lure other players to its network. CityFibre claims to have been in negotiations with Vodafone for two years, although the timing of the agreement suggests mobile operators have recently grown more interested in finding backhaul alternatives to BT, which is set to become a mobile rival once it absorbs EE. (See CityFibre Sees Backhaul Interest From O2, Vodafone, CityFibre Aims for BT's Wholesale Business and BT Locks Down £12.5B EE Takeover Deal.)
GCHQ, the UK intelligence agency, is able to hack into individuals' smartphones using a so-called "Smurf suite" of intercept capabilities, according to data-privacy whistleblower Edward Snowden, who gave a rare TV interview to the BBC's Panorama program. Snowden, who is living as a fugitive in Russia, said that even if an individual's smartphone is switched off, it can be turned on without him or her knowing, using a power management tool know as "Dreamy Smurf," while "Nosey Smurf" is a "hot mic" tool that can be used to listen in on what's happening around the smartphone's owner. For the uninitiated, Smurfs are cartoon characters created in Belgium in the 1950s. (See Mobile Security: The Snowden Fallout.)
A ruling by the European Court of Justice has declared that the Safe Harbor agreement, which in effect helps global Internet firms such as Facebook send personal data to servers in the US, is invalid, and does not preclude the respective national data authorities from examining such cases of personal data transfer and reaching their own judgement on them. The particular case in question, which centers on data held initially on Facebook's servers in Ireland, was brought before the EU Court of Justice by Maximillian Schrems, an Austrian privacy rights activist who objected to his personal data being transferred from Facebook 's Irish subsidiary to Facebook's servers in the US. (See Eurobites: Facebook Faces Privacy Class Action.)
European Union antitrust regulators are to take a closer look at the proposed acquisition of BASE , the mobile operator owned by Dutch incumbent KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN), by Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY)'s Belgian subsidiary, Telenet . Reuters reports that its preliminary review of the deal had found the €1.325 billion (US$1.4 billion) takeover could "hurt competition" in the Belgian mobile market. (See Telenet Buys KPN's BASE in $1.4B Deal.)
Sigfox , the France-based Internet of Things connectivity specialist, has named its Italian partners: They are ET Towers and Nettrotter, the latter providing two-way subscription-based connectivity to Italian customers. Sigfox currently has its network deployed in nine countries, spanning 5 million registered devices. (See Sigfox Names Italian Partners and Sigfox Plans Global IoT Network.)
Orange Digital Ventures is investing an unspecified amount in Afrostream, a subscription-based video-on-demand service centered on Africa-related content and available in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire.
Vivendi , the French media conglomerate, has again raised its stake in Telecom Italia (TIM) , to 19.9%, reports Reuters. The move brings its total stake in the Italian incumbent to more than €3 billion (US$3.4 billion). Last year Vivendi exited its domestic mobile market when it sold SFR to Numericable. (See Eurobites: Vivendi to Up Stake in Telecom Italia and Eurobites: Numericable Wins SFR M&A Tussle.)
— Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading