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Eurobites: Liberty's electric vehicle plans get UK blessing

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Nokia boasts 5G world record; Etisalat loses CEO; Altice pays off debts; Angola awards fourth license.

  • Thou shalt not drive gas-powered vehicles. US cable giant Liberty Global has struck a deal with an investment fund backed by the Church of England to roll out a network of electric vehicle charging points in the UK, according to a Financial Times report (subscription required). Through a new venture called Liberty Charge, the US firm will reportedly make use of the 40,000 street cabinets and 170,000 kilometers of ducts owned by Virgin Media, its UK subsidiary. The project will have support from the Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund (CIIF), which relies on a mix of taxpayer and private capital and last year raised £80 million (US$98 million) from the Church Commissioners' investment fund and the same amount from the UK government. CIIF is managed by a London-based private equity firm called Zouk Capital.

  • Finland's Nokia claims to have achieved a new 5G world record, setting a speed of 4.7 Gbit/s during tests that were carried out in the US. The equipment vendor said it combined eight 100MHz channels in the 28GHz and 39GHz bands, adding another 40MHz of 4G spectrum to this so that devices could connect to 5G and 4G services at the same time. NTT Data UK, a subsidiary of Japan's NTT, appeared to welcome the update in comments attributed to Guillermo Pedraja, its own 5G head. "The coronavirus pandemic has revealed how false headlines about 5G can easily suck up all the debate, taking the focus away from the benefits of this exciting technology," he said. "Scientific evidence, not baseless rumours, are the way forward to a better and more connected world."

  • Middle Eastern telecom giant Etisalat says its CEO, Saleh Al Abdooli, has resigned from his position for "personal reasons." The company, headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, has named Hatem Dowidar, who currently heads up international operations, as acting CEO until it decides on a permanent replacement. The update comes shortly after Etisalat reported 1% year-on-year growth in sales for its fiscal first quarter, to 13.1 billion Emirati dirhams ($3.6 billion), and a 2% dip in net profit, to AED2.2 billion ($600 million). The operator serves about 150 million subscribers across various countries.

  • European service provider Altice has repaid €668 million ($732 million) of a corporate financing facility, reducing that to just €1.06 billion ($1.16 billion), using cash available on its balance sheet. The company said it had also extended the maturity of the remaining facility from June 2021 to June 2023. Altice said the moves would help to simplify its capital structure and generate annual interest savings of €48 million ($53 million).

  • Angola has awarded a fourth telecom license to Lebanon's Africell, according to a report from the Economic Times newspaper. The license had previously been given to Angola's Telstar, but it was revoked after President Joao Lourenco decided that operator had failed to meet bidding requirements. Africell already provides in Gambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Uganda. In Angola, it will face competition from Unitel and Movicel, the dominant mobile players, as well as Angola Telecom, which offers fixed but not mobile services.

    — Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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