Eurobites: UK's £200M Gigabit Scheme Splutters Into Life

In today's EMEA regional roundup: UK's state-funded Gigabit broadband pilot locations unveiled; Onecom lands IoT deal with Vodafone; MTN South Africa puts Cat-M1 tech to the IoT test; Emtelle expands into Germany.

  • The UK government has revealed the identities of six locations where it will pilot gigabit-speed fiber broadband technology as the first part of a £200 million ($259 million) initiative to improve the country's digital infrastructure. Those locations are: Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire; West Sussex; Coventry and Warwickshire; Bristol and Bath and North East Somerset; West Yorkshire; and Greater Manchester. The government is providing £10 million ($13 million) in public-sector funding for the pilots (between them -- not each!), which will look at "innovative ways" of connecting offices and public-sector buildings to next-generation fiber networks, said the government in a statement. Authorities plan to spend the remaining £190 million ($246 million) by 2021 but have yet to indicate exactly how these funds will be used. While several private-sector investors, including fixed-line incumbent BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), cable rival Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) and altnet CityFibre are currently rolling out networks that will enable higher-speed broadband services, critics have complained the UK lacks the fiber-to-the-premises networks it will need to support digital service needs in future. BT plans to cover about 2 million premises with such networks by 2020 and says it will consider a more extensive rollout if the regulatory framework does not prove too onerous. (See BT Rejigs Consumer Biz as Profits Hit by £225M Italy Payout.)

  • A unified communications specialist called Onecom said it has struck a five-year Internet of Things (IoT) deal with mobile operator Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) to "develop, launch and manage" services for UK businesses. Details are thin, but Onecom says it will develop its own IoT services and provide these over Vodafone's network and technology platform. "We see IoT services as a major focus of growth over the next five years and beyond," said Aaron Brown, Onecom's chief operating officer, in a statement. Onecom currently manages about 325,000 mobile connections for UK businesses and already has a unified communications agreement in place with Vodafone.

  • Still with IoT, South African mobile operator MTN has been putting a Cat-M1 platform (also known as LTE-M or eMTC) through its paces, working with technology partners Ericsson and Qualcomm. For more details, go to our sister site Connecting Africa and check out MTN Demos Cellular IoT with Ericsson, Qualcomm.

  • Scottish fiber network deployment technology specialist Emtelle has acquired German firm Moore GmbH as part of a broader €30 million ($35.7 million) investment in its manufacturing facilities across Europe. Emtelle specializes in blown fibre and ducted network solutions for telecom network operators and is expecting an uptick in business fuelled by the ever increasing demand for fiber-based broadband connections and the ongoing growth in Internet traffic. (See Emtelle Expands Into Germany With Strategic Acquisition.)

  • Kenya's Safaricom Ltd. is planning a major upgrade to its world-famous M-PESA mobile money platform on September 9. For more details, go to our sister site Connecting Africa and check out Safaricom Preps Major M-Pesa Upgrade.)

    — Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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