Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Nokia goes farming; Inmarsat earnings slump in Q1; CityFibre breaks ground on Cambridge network expansion.
The UK government is considering new laws that it hopes will make the Internet of Things a safer place. According a BBC report, Digital Minister Margot James is proposing legislation that would force companies to sell IoT devices that come with unique passwords, make it clear for how long security updates would be made available and offer a point of contact with whom any cybersecurity vulnerabilities may be safely disclosed. A new labelling system would also tell customers how secure a particular IoT-connected product was, in the same way appliances in the EU come with labels telling customers how energy-efficient they are. Whether such proposals will have implications for the rest of the EU's legislative landscape is, given the UK's ongoing Brexit ball of confusion, anyone's guess.
Also plowing the IoT furrow is Finland's Nokia, which has joined the ConectarAGRO initiative to help promote innovative IoT-based applications to the Brazilian agribusiness sector. According to Nokia, there is less than 7% wireless broadband coverage of Brazil's agricultural areas, so the companies involved in the initiative are looking to enable 500,000 Brazilian farms to connect their farm fleets, employ robots, temperature and moisture sensors, drone aerial images and GPS in a bid to boost farm yields for soybeans, cotton, corn, sugar cane and other crops while reducing fuel consumption and the use of insecticides and water for irrigation.
Inmarsat, the UK-based mobile satellite communications specialist, saw first-quarter EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) plunge 12.9% year-on-year to $152.4 million, on revenue that was up slightly at $346.9 million. The drop in earnings was attributed to one-off costs associated with a planned takeover of the Group by private equity consortium, as well as declining business with Ligado. (See Eurobites: Inmarsat Agrees to $3.4B Takeover Bid.)
UK altnet CityFiber has broken ground this week on a £20 million ($26.1 million) fiber network expansion project in Cambridge, UK, which, when complete, will connect almost every home and business to gigabit speeds. The project is being delivered in partnership with Vodafone, with local contractor John Henry Group in charge of the actual trench-work. Work is expected to be completed by 2021, though the first connected homes should be able to access gigabit services this fall.
Telefónica has teamed up with the UN's World Tourism Organization to foster the development of digital entrepreneurship and training initiatives in the tourism sector. Big data and IoT are expected to figure highly, with the technology used to better understand patterns of tourist behavior, such as why they always walk very slowly, five abreast, in the middle of the sidewalk.
Ericsson and China Telecom have signed a new 5G MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with a view to accelerating the development of commercial 5G and promoting innovation. But hey, China Telecom, don't think you're anything special, because it turns out this is Ericsson's 45th announced 5G partnership with a service provider.
EE, the BT-owned mobile operator, has launched its "Smart Plans," which offer what the company claims is a UK first: "swappable benefits." Customers can choose the "benefit" or feature -- such as music streaming that doesn't count against their data allowance -- that they think best suits their needs when they take out the plan, but they are free to swap these for another benefit as their needs or preferences change. EE is also upgrading its more basic Essential Plans, as well as offering a device guarantee for the lifetime of the customer's contract.