In today's regional roundup: DT takes NB-IoT on a road trip; Arqiva eyes 5G role in UK; more 5G partnerships; Cell C spurns Telkom's advances; Proximus gets earnings boost from cuts.
Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) has snatched some of the wind from Vodafone's NB-IoT sails by announcing plans for a commercial launch of the Internet of Things technology in a range of its European markets this year. Germany is to get a service in the second quarter, said the operator, which is currently running NB-IoT trials with customers in the smart metering, smart parking and asset tracking areas. A "nationwide implementation" in the Netherlands is also scheduled for completion this year, and several Dutch customers are already queuing up to use services, according to Deutsche Telekom, including indoor climate specialist Itho Daalderop, railway maintenance specialist Dual Inventive and sensor maker Smartsensors. The operator further plans to extend NB-IoT coverage in countries where it has already deployed networks, including Austria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. Deutsche Telekom says it is using 800MHz and 900MHz spectrum to support NB-IoT services. Regarded perhaps as the main telco cheerleader for NB-IoT, Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) last October claimed to be the "first" to announce commercial launch plans when it revealed that networks would go live in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain in the first three months of 2017. NB-IoT faces a challenge from other low-power, wide-area (LPWA) network technologies including Sigfox and LoRa, which use unlicensed spectrum to support connectivity and have been in the market for longer. (See Deutsche Telekom Deploys NB-IoT Across Europe, DT Claims World First on NB-IoT and Vodafone Kicks Off NB-IoT Fiesta in Spain.)
UK broadcaster Arqiva is due to launch a trial of pre-5G technology in central London in partnership with South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), according to a Financial Times report (subscription required). The trials seem focused on the use of pre-standards 5G capabilities as a fixed-wireless access technology and suggest that Arqiva sees an opportunity to compete against BT's Openreach business in the market for access solutions. Arqiva has emphasized that it is not trying to compete in the consumer sector and that mobile phone companies will be involved in its trials with Samsung. Arqiva owns a nationwide license to operate services in the 28GHz band -- the same range generating early 5G interest in the US, Japan and South Korea.
Sweden's Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) announced a further 5G partnership initiative, this time involving UK incumbent BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) together with King's College London. The tie-up is specifically aimed at exploring "use cases" in commercial and consumer markets, with a particular focus on medical applications. (See BT, Ericsson, King's College London Team Up on 5G R&D, Testing.)
Sticking with BT, the operator became involved in yet another 5G partnership with Japan's NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701) and Salford University. The aim of that one is to look into performance of millimeter wave mobile backhaul technology during "the rigors of British weather." The companies say they have set up a test bed that will measure the performance of a 60GHz-based radio system over a 12-month period, when exposed to rain, wind, fog and ice. The results should clearly inform BT's planning when it comes to the deployment of millimeter wave technology in a commercial setting.
South African mobile operator Cell C is reported to have turned down a takeover offer from Telkom SA Ltd. (NYSE/Johannesburg: TKG), the country's incumbent operator, saying it is already committed to an agreement with a company called Blue Label. Telkom is said to have offered about 13 billion South African rand ($1 billion) to buy out the indebted operator, while Blue Label, a prepaid service provider, appears in October to have offered ZAR5.5 billion ($430 million) for a 45% stake in Cell C. Telkom last made approaches to Cell C in 2015, with the two companies then failing to reach agreement on a satisfactory price.
Belgian incumbent Proximus flagged a 0.8% dip in fourth-quarter sales, to €1.49 billion ($1.58 billion), blaming the drop on pressure at its domestic mobile business and difficulties at international carrier division BICS , which is struggling amid the transition from voice to data services. Thanks to cost-cutting efforts, however, Proximus was able to report a 5.5% increase in earnings (before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortization), to €441 million ($467 million), compared with the year-earlier period.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading