Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Sky strikes fiber deal in Italy; Ofcom rules on ducts, poles and more; roaming subscriptions in the EU; Orange news.
Telecom Italia (TIM) has officially notified the Italian telecom regulator, Agcom , that it is to begin the voluntary process of separating out its fixed-access network from the rest of the company. In a statement, the operator said that the new company, NetCo, will be 100% controlled by TIM, though it will have the assets and personnel to allow it to "provide wholesale services independently." The spin-off is essentially a response to political pressure, as the Italian government is concerned about the operator's dominance of infrastructure provision in the country's telecom market. (See Telecom Italia to Spin Off Fixed Lines, Increase Automation.)
Elsewhere on the Italian fixed-line front, Reuters reports that Sky (NYSE, London: SKY) is on the verge of agreeing a deal with Italy's Open Fiber, which will give its Italian unit access to the fiber network Open Fiber is currently rolling out in more than 270 towns and cities -- and give TIM something to think about.
UK regulator Ofcom has confirmed the introduction of a package of measures it proposed more than a year ago, which are intended to make it easier for BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA)'s rivals to access its poles and ducts in order to roll out their own fiber, as well as forcing Openreach , BT's semi-autonomous network access unit, to repair faults more quickly. Today's announcement also sees a raising of the cap on the wholesale monthly price BT can charge for its entry-level 40Mbit/s "superfast" broadband service, from £11.92 (US$16.86) to £12.06 ($17.06). This adjustment, says Ofcom, reflects "new information" relating to inflation and BT's pension costs. (See BT Gets Boost After Ofcom Raises Broadband Price Cap.)
As from Sunday (April 1), citizens of the European Union will be able to access the online content they have subscribed to at home -- be it music streaming services, Netflix, or whatever -- wherever they are within the EU. According to a European Commission statement on the matter, the rules will apply to paid-for subscriptions but "providers of free content may opt in."
OK, time for three segments of Orange (NYSE: FTE) news. First up, the French giant has applied for a banking license to the West African Economic and Monetary Union in a bid to expand its banking operations into the continent. As the Financial Times reports (subscription required), Orange launched Orange Bank last October, following new legislation that made it easier for customers to change banks. The African arm of the banking operation will be run with an as-yet-unnamed partner. Orange has long had a strong financial presence in Africa with its mobile money platform, which now has 12 million customers in 18 countries. (See Eurobites: Orange Bank Is Open for Business.)
Second, Orange Polska and Orange Belgium have teamed up with Salesforce.com Inc. and Vlocity Inc. in a bid to turbocharge -- via the power of the cloud -- its customer service and sales operations.
And third, the operator has announced plans to expand its energy business in Africa. Having already begun selling solar kits in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar, the French operator is planning service launches in Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea and Senegal by June. Orange reckons it can sell hundreds of thousands of kits in the next five years to consumers who currently have zero access to electricity. For more details, see this story on our sister news site Connecting Africa.
Stofa, a Danish TV and broadband provider, has teamed up with Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) to launch what the vendor claims is the first network in Europe to use Remote-PHY technology. Arris's R-PHY technology enables Stofa to virtualize and decentralize headend functions and elements of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) layer.
And now some Blexit news… it's the end of a technology era at the heart of British government: Prime Minister Theresa May has finally ditched her BlackBerry mobile phone, replacing it with an iPhone. As the BBC reports, the PM had been the last member of the government team still using the 90s favorite. They're not called the Conservative Party for nothing, you know…