Eurobites: EE Commits to Railways 4G Boost

In today's EMEA regional roundup: Mobile data boost for UK's weary train passengers; Altice sells off Swiss data center unit; Megafon raises forecast, but warns of challenges ahead; MTS goes with Microsoft's Azure for cloud services.

  • BT-owned UK mobile operator EE has pledged to spend "tens of millions" of pounds upgrading 4G coverage on the railways in 2018. The commitment forms part of its "Time in 4G" program, which will use anonymized data from customers to measure the percentage of time its customers are actually connected to 4G as opposed to the alternatives. EE is banking on the government making good on the promise it made in the Autumn Budget to improve mobile coverage on the railways by incentivizing operators, train operating companies and rail-related landowners to clear the way for installation of the necessary trackside equipment.

  • Altice , the France-based cable group that has bene making the news for its acquisitions during the past few years, is actually selling a couple of things this time: its Swiss Internet services company, green.ch AG, and its Swiss data center operations outfit, Green Datacenter AG. Both are being sold to InfraVia Capital Partners. The Green Datacenter transaction is worth approximately 214 million Swiss francs (US$217 million) and is expected to close in early 2018. The move comes as Altice seeks to balance its books following a maelstrom of management and financial instability and further asset sales seem likely. (See Eurobites: Altice to Flog Dominican Business – Report, Eurobites: Altice Calms Investors' Nerves and Altice Moves to Stem Investor Panic.)

  • Russian operator operator MegaFon has raised its full-year earnings forecast following year-on-year telecoms revenue growth of 4.4%, to 84.7 billion Russian rubles ($1.44 billion), in the third quarter, Reuters reports. The operator did, however, warn of future headwinds coming from both difficult economic conditions and regulatory measures. Earlier this week MegaFon announced it was joining forces with rival Rostelecom in a 5G joint venture in a bid to combat some of the challenges facing companies looking to build a next-generation network in the Russian market. (See Russia's MegaFon, Rostelecom Plot 5G Networks JV.)

  • Still in Russia, Mobile TeleSystems OJSC (MTS) (NYSE: MBT) says it's become the first company in the country to partner with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) to offer the software giant's Azure hybrid cloud services to corporate clients. The Azure Stack system will be hosted in MTS data centers, allowing customers to create hybrid applications combining MTS's local data services with a global cloud facility. The service will start in early 2018.

  • Subscriptions to "superfast" (30Mbit/s download speed or above) fiber connections now account for 38% of all fixed broadband connections in France, according to the latest "scoreboard" produced by Arcep , the country's telecom regulator. In the third quarter of 2017, the number of superfast broadband subscriptions increased by 370,000 to reach 6.5 million, which equates to an additional 1.5 million subscriptions year-on-year. (The equivalent figure last year was 1.2 million.) Arcep warns that market players may need to "step up the pace" to meet their FTTH rollout targets, noting a slowing down in expansion when compared to the second quarter of 2017.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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