Eurobites: Vodafone, BT Eye Joint Fiber Rollout – Report

In today's EMEA regional roundup: Openreach in FTTH talks with Vodafone; BT to spend another £17.6 million on Cornish broadband; Nokia launches another 5G initiative; Sweden's Com Hem makes smart home move.

  • Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) is reportedly in talks with BT's access networks unit Openreach about co-funding the rollout of new fiber networks in cities up and down the UK, according to a report from the Daily Telegraph. The report cites industry sources who say the operators are in "early but serious" discussions but face regulatory hurdles. Foremost are rules requiring broadband infrastructure to be made available to all broadband retailers on equal terms. Vodafone is apparently putting pressure on Ofcom to relax those regulations and give it a period of exclusivity over any new networks. Should it go ahead, the investment would help Vodafone develop its own portfolio of high-speed broadband products. The networks could also be used to provide much-needed backhaul capacity for superfast mobile networks, including forthcoming 5G services. During a previous interview with Light Reading, Kye Prigg, Vodafone UK's head of mobile networks, said the operator still needed to figure out 5G backhaul on an "industrial scale" and that regulations giving it access to BT infrastructure would be of critical importance. (See Vodafone UK Turns Mobile Network Guns on BT/EE.)

  • BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) also said it would spend £17.6 million ($22.5 million) on the rollout of superfast broadband networks in remote communities in the UK county of Cornwall. Under a controversial government-backed program, the operator plans to extend fiber-to-the-premises networks to about 7,000 premises by the end of 2019. The European Regional Development Fund is to cough up £8.5 million ($10.9 million) of the proposed funding, with the UK government contributing £3 million ($3.8 million) and local authorities providing £1 million ($1.3 million). BT will stump up the remaining £5.1 million ($6.5 million). Critics have complained that BT is receiving public-sector funds to grow its network footprint and become even more powerful. This latest project represents a "third phase" of the so-called Superfast Cornwall initiative, which has already seen £136.9 million ($175.3 million) spent on extending broadband networks to more than 240,000 premises. BT claims Superfast Cornwall has given a £275 million ($352 million) boost to the Cornish economy, creating 3,120 jobs and "safeguarding" another 3,430.

  • Finland's Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is coordinating a new 5G research project, dubbed 5G MoNArch (5G Mobile Network Architecture), that will look at the use of "network slicing" to support services in vertical markets including the automotive, healthcare and media sectors. With network slicing, operators could take advantage of virtualization technologies to provide very different types of 5G network service over the same physical infrastructure. The project, set to run for two years with a budget of €7.7 million ($9.1 million), will form a part of the bigger 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership, which itself belongs to the European Union's Horizon 2020 Framework Program.

  • Swedish cable company com hem AB is to start offering smart home services to its customers through a tie-up with local software player TMPL. Com Hem says it will use TMPL's platform to provide a range of digital services, such as energy monitoring, to residential properties. A service launch has been scheduled for autumn this year and will build on trials that were carried out in 2016.

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

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