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Eurobites: Italian Antitrust Watchdog Gets Its Teeth Into TIM

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Telefónica profit up by a third, extends wholesale FTTH deal with Orange; more 5G action; Nokia memo confirms healthcare U-turn.

  • The Italian competition authority, AGCM, has extended its investigation into suspected market abuses by Telecom Italia (TIM) in the light of information revealed during the initial stages of the probe. According to the authority, the new information relates to behavior on TIM's part that it believes could be seen as hindering infrastructure competition in the "ultra-broadband" market and limiting the competitiveness of customers who purchase wholesale services. TIM is one of a group of organizations also under scrutiny by AGCM for suspected collusion over so-called "28-day billing." (See Eurobites: Italian Operators Face Antitrust Probe.)

  • Telefónica saw net profit increase 32.2% year-on-year in 2017 to €3.13 billion (US$3.84 billion), on revenues that grew 3.4% in organic terms to €52 billion ($68.8 billion), despite what Executive Chairman José María Álvarez-Pallete called "regulatory drags." The Spanish operator now claims to cover more than 90% of the European population with LTE and pass more than 70 million premises with fiber. (See Telefónica Reports Q4, Full Year 2017.)

  • Telefónica has also struck a commercial wholesale deal with Orange (NYSE: FTE), extending their 2016 agreement which allowed Orange to continue to access Telefónica's network in areas where the French incumbent is not planning to deploy its own FTTH network. Telefónica signed a similar deal with Vodafone last year.

  • The UK face of Telefónica, O2, is to launch a 5G test bed at The O2 events venue in London, with installation beginning next month. The facility will allow O2 customers to sample the technology through a range of demonstrations that will possibly include virtual reality, augmented reality and live streaming.

  • Also on the 5G trail is Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM), which says that its customers will be able to enjoy the technology by the end of this year -- two years earlier than originally anticipated. To this end, the company will shortly be trialing Switzerland's first 5G mast, in Ittigen, although the operator acknowledges that a full 5G rollout is dependent on a range of regulatory conditions.

  • And there's more! Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd claim to have completed the world's first 5G call using the non-standalone 3GPP 5G new radio (NR) standard and sub-6GHz spectrum. The call, on a test network, took place in Spain, just ahead of Mobile World Congress, which hoves into view next week. In the test, says Huawei, a "dual connectivity" 4G-to-5G live call was achieved using a test device. The VoIP connection started on 4G and then established the data connection on 5G. A test of a live HD video call using the same route was also successfully carried out, says Huawei.

  • A leaked internal memo, first published by The Verge, appears to confirm the suspicion that Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) sees no future for itself in the digital health market, despite having shelled out $190 million for Withings, a maker of digital health devices, in 2016. The memo, written by Chief Strategy Officer Kathrin Buvac to Nokia employees, said: "Rather than only falling in love with our technology, we must be honest with ourselves … Currently, we don't see a path for [the digital health business] to become a meaningful part of a company as large as Nokia … Failing fast isn't failure, it is accelerated learning." The memo comes in the wake of an announcement last week that the company was launching a "strategic review" of its place in the digital health market. (See Eurobites: Nokia Gets a Case of the Shakes Over Digital Health Market.)

  • Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) has launched an IoT matchmaking service that it hopes will encourage collaboration within the sector between service providers, application developers and application partners. Service providers and application developers can request access to the IoT Accelerator Marketplace here.

  • French operator Bouygues Telecom reported a 6.8% year-on-year increase in full-year revenues to €5.09 billion ($6.24 billion) in 2017, while its EBITDA improved by 26.9% to €1.16 billion ($1.42 billion) and net profit was €260 million ($319 million), up more than 180% compared with 2016's profit. The operator ended 2017 with 14.4 million customers, up by 500,000 during the full year. Of those mobile customers, 7.9 million are 4G users, up by 1 million compared with the end of 2016. The operator also has 3.4 million fixed-line customers, including 265,000 FTTH users, an increase of more than 220% from a year earlier, and says it expects its overall service revenues to increase by more than 3% this year. The news comes only a day after French incumbent Orange, previously linked to a potential takeover offer for Bouygues Telecom, announced its first increase in domestic revenues since 2009 and stressed that it had no intention of buying any of its French rivals. (See Orange Rules Out M&A Moves in France, Returns to Growth.)

  • Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), which today announces its fiscal full-year results, is replacing its CFO. Christian Illek, currently CHRO at DT, will come in for Thomas Dannenfeldt, who has decided to leave the company for personal reasons. Also, CEO Timotheus Höttges has had his contract extended for another five years. (See DT to Splurge €12.5B in 2018 Capex as It Preps for 5G.)

  • VEON , the Amsterdam-based but Russia-focused mobile operator, saw fourth-quarter profit fall nearly 4% year-on-year to $753 million, on sales that slipped 1.4% to $2.3 billion. However, as Nasdaq.com reports, the results were clearly better than expected, and shares rose in the wake of their release.

  • Exponential-e Ltd. , the UK cloud, network and unified communications provider, has achieved Stage 2 Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) compliance, which allows it deliver HSCN services to public sector customers, including the NHS.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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