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Eurobites: UK Government Gets Jumpy Over Inmarsat Sale

Paul Rainford
7/23/2019
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Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Intracom Telecom lands Italian FWA job with Open Fiber; Openreach reduces wholesale FTTP prices; Ericsson and Swisscom join the 5G Dots.

  • The UK government has intervened in the $3.4 billion sale of satellite company Inmarsat on the grounds of national security. Inmarsat shareholders had agreed in May to a takeover by a private equity-led consortium, but any deal could now be in doubt after representations were made by government figures including the country's foreign and defense secretaries. A short statement on the move did not indicate why concerns have recently materialized but said the Competition and Markets Authority, which rules on merger activity, would prepare a report on the "competition and national security aspects of the proposed transaction." It has been given a deadline of September 17 to complete that report. The statement comes days after the Daily Telegraph reported on the likelihood of government intervention. (See Eurobites: Inmarsat Agrees to $3.4B Takeover Bid.)

  • Intracom Telecom has landed the contract to supply Italy's Open Fiber with the FWA (fixed wireless access) systems it needs to meet its commitment to supply around 20 million Italian households with "ultra-broadband" services. Open Fiber is a state-backed company that has in recent years been challenging the incumbent, Telecom Italia, on the fixed-line front.

  • Openreach, the quasi-autonomous network access arm of BT, has reduced the wholesale price of its pure fiber offerings to communications service providers in a bid to make them more appealing to CSPs looking to go down the FTTP route. Its 330Mbit/s tier has been reduced 36%, to 24.28 ($30.24) a month; its 110 Mbit/s tier down 20%, to 17.28 ($21.52); and its 40Mbit/s tier down 10%, to 14.28 ($17.78). The new prices apply from September 1. Openreach also plans to introduce new 500Mbit/s and 1Gbit/s variants of its FTTP service later in the 2019/20 financial year.

  • 5G has already acquired something of a reputation for being "useless indoors," so it's no surprise that vendors and operators are working hard to address this issue. In this spirit, Ericsson has installed its 5G Radio Dot indoor small-cell system on Swisscom's live 5G commercial network, making what it claims to be the first 5G data call in Europe between two offices -- the Ericsson office in central Bern and Swisscom's office in the nearby town of Liebefeld. In April, Swisscom and Ericsson launched what they said was Europe's first large-scale commercial 5G network that supports commercially available smartphones. (See Eurobites: Swisscom & Ericsson Flip the 5G Switch.)

  • Pontefract, a town in the northern English county of Yorkshire that is probably best known for its cakes that aren't cakes, has become the latest place ticked off the list in Virgin Media's Project Lightning network expansion program. Nearly 4,000 homes and businesses will gain access to average top download speeds of 516 Mbit/s. On Monday, Virgin Media's parent company, Liberty Global, announced it was planning to hugely expand its Virgin Media services reach in the UK by forming a wholesale fiber network joint venture backed by infrastructure funds. (See Liberty Global 'Reboots' Project Lightning and Virgin Media Plots 3B Invasion of BT Turf.)

  • BT has found a new global headquarters building in London, just a couple of miles east of what is soon to be its old one. The new gaff, called "One Braham" and being built in the Aldgate area of the city, is described by BT as a "new fit-for-purpose building." It will have its own park, two restaurants and a "winter garden." According to the One Braham website, the building has space for "3,646 inspired individuals," but it does not specify how much room there will be for all the dead wood. BT's current home, the BT Centre near St Paul's Cathedral, is being sold to Orion Capital Managers but will be leased back for 30 months while BT prepares for the big move. (See BT Looks More Bloated Than Ever.)

    Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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