Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: trouble in Uzbekistan; surveillance laws revamped in UK; Vivacom boss slams EU "hodgepodge."
Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) is turning up the heat on broadband rival BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) with the promise of a 300Mbit/s service for UK businesses early next year. The service, claims Virgin, will be four times faster than the best currently offered by the likes of BT. Currently available to around 13 million UK premises, Virgin's cable network is being extended to another 4 million as part of a £3 billion ($4.6 billion) investment. (See Virgin Media Boss Attacks BT/EE Deal.)
Russian operator Mobile TeleSystems OJSC (MTS) (NYSE: MBT) has confirmed that the US Department of Justice and SEC are carrying out an investigation into its business activities in Uzbekistan. A complaint filed by the DoJ alleges that MTS made corrupt payments to gain access to the Uzbek market. Uzbekistan has become something of a hotbed of telecom shenanigans: only last week the then chairman of Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN), Svein Aaser, was forced to step down as a result of Telenor's entanglement with VimpelCom Ltd. (NYSE: VIP)'s allegedly corrupt dealings in the former Soviet republic. (See Eurobites: Norway Dumps Telenor Chairman.)
Internet service providers will have to retain the details of every website visited by UK citizens in the past 12 months under proposed new surveillance laws, the BBC reports. Under the terms of the Investigatory Powers Bill, police and security services will need permission from the courts to access the data, except in matters relating to certain time-constrained events, such as live kidnappings.
Swedish carrier Tele2 AB (Nasdaq: TLTO) and local operator Altel are to combine their mobile businesses in Kazakhstan. The new business will have more than 5.6 million customers and market share of around 22%, according to Tele2.