Eurobites: France Leans On Telcos to Extend 4G Coverage With €3B Capex Injection

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Ericsson troubleshoots with AR; Swisscom reaches agreement on employment conditions; Telenor says "Hey you! Upskill!"

  • The French government has said it will extend the duration of mobile operators' spectrum licenses rather than holding a fresh auction in return for those same operators agreeing to spend €3 billion ($3.7 billion) rolling out a truly nationwide 4G network by 2020. According to a Reuters report, each of the major operators -- Orange (NYSE: FTE), SFR , Bouygues Telecom and Free Mobile -- would install 5,000 masts and antennas and ensure 4G coverage along 30,000km of rail tracks. A government minister also accused the operators of having under-invested in the country's mobile network over the past 15 years.

  • Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) is exploiting augmented reality (AR) technology to accelerate collaborative work on troubleshooting electronic boards during its manufacturing processes at its factory in Tallinn, Estonia. ART (augmented reality troubleshooting), used in combination with an Android tablet or HoloLens virtual reality headset, does away with the need for the creation, editing and distribution of Microsoft Word documents, allowing, says Ericsson, the engineer in question to enjoy a hands-free experience when it comes to reporting on the work in progress.

  • Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) has reached a new collective employment agreement with trade union Syndicom and other interested parties. As part of the new agreement, all employees are now entitled to five training and development days a year, paid holiday entitlement that progressively increases from the age of 35 (up to 30 days), and the right not to be available outside working hours.

  • In similar territory, Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN) CEO Sigve Brekke has challenged the Nordic operator's 30,000-plus employees to each spend more than 40 hours training in 2018. Brekke would like his minions for focus on five key areas: digital marketing; digital channels; applied analytics; and design and product development.

  • Telecom Italia Sparkle , the international services arm of the Italian incumbent, has joined forces with Aldea Solutions to extend the latter's video transport service coverage in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Under the new arrangement, Sparkle's Sicily Hub in Palermo will become a key media hub for the exchange of video content in the region.

  • In Germany, cable operators have teamed up with media outlets, broadcasters and related trade associations to launch the Digital Cable Initiative, which is helping to coordinate the country's switch to exclusively digital TV distribution on cable networks. Among those taking part are Vodafone Germany , Telekom Deutschland GmbH and cable association ANGA. It is expected that the states of Bavaria and Saxony will be the first to complete the switchover, by the end of 2018, with the rest of the country following suit in early 2019.

  • UK cable operator Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) is coming under fire in the consumer pages of the Guardian for its policy of charging customers a fee for coming out of their contract early if they happen to move to a property that isn't reached by the Virgin network -- which is the case for around half of all properties in the UK. Such penalty charges can be as much as £240 ($330), the Guardian reports.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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