Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Vodafone tracks drones; TIM's spin-off puts 20,000 jobs at risk, says trade union official; Orange and MTN join forces on mobile money.
Telefónica UK Ltd. (O2) is hoping to lay the foundations for 5G with the launch of Massive MIMO trials in two of London's data hotspots: Kings Cross and Marble Arch. The operator has teamed up with Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) for the trials, which will use the 2.3GHz spectrum that O2 bagged earlier this year at a cost of £206 million (US$264 million). Massive MIMO is a technology that works by sending multiple beams of data from an antenna to devices, thereby improving capacity and performance. (See UK's £1.4B '5G' Auction Looks Bad for Industry.)
Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) has completed what it claims is the first European trial of mobile tracking and control technology for long-distance drone flights. Using a 4G modem and a SIM attached to the drone, a "self-learning" artificial intelligence system calculates the drone's position, enabling those controlling it to see if it has veered off-course. According to Vodafone, the trial demonstrated that existing 4G networks could be used to monitor drone flights at up to 120 meters above ground level. The trial took place at Vodafone's test facility at Aldenhoven, Germany.
A trade union official has said that the proposed spin-off of Telecom Italia (TIM) 's fixed-line network could put 20,000 jobs at risk, according to a Reuters report citing a story in Il Messaggero daily. Earlier this week Luigi Gubitosi was appointed as Telecom Italia's new CEO, replacing Amos Genish, who was given his marching orders the week before. It is thought that Gubitosi will try to implement the strategy preferred by activist investor Elliott Management, which has effectively taken control of the Telecom Italia board and wants to sell off the operator's fixed-line infrastructure. (See Eurobites: Genish Versus Elliott Gets Personal, Telecom Italia Caught in Clash of Clans While Rome Burns and Telecom Italia Molders as Shareholders Feud.)
Orange (NYSE: FTE) and MTN Group Ltd. have joined forces to launch a new mobile-money platform, Mowali (which sounds like a forgotten African state but actually stands for "mobile wallet interoperability"). The new platform, which makes it possible to send money between mobile-money accounts issued by any mobile-money provider, will draw on the reach of the two operators' existing mobile-money offerings, combining more than 100 million mobile-money accounts in 22 of sub-Saharan Africa's 46 markets. Mowali could be seen as a rival to M-Pesa, the money-transfer platform launched by Vodafone in 2007 that has a strong presence in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.
Swiss operator Salt SA saw third-quarter EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) fall 3.2% year-on-year to 125.4 million Swiss francs ($125.8 million), on revenue that fell 0.3% to CHF262.4 million ($262.2 million). However, Salt attributes this mainly to wholesale roaming activities that "benefitted from positive contract settlements in 2017." A total of 11,100 postpaid mobile customers were added in the third quarter, which represents a growth rate of 3.9% year-on-year.
Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) has announced the finalists of its competition to find killer applications for its LTE-M technology, which it hopes to roll out in 2019. Eighteen finalists (out of 150 applicants) were selected, among them a Dutch company, Babbler, which has developed a container-tracking offering, and the fabulously named Inshoerance, which has come up with "smart insoles" containing built-in alarm sensors that can be activated, if necessary, by those in "dangerous workplaces" or at risk of being kidnapped. We didn't see that one coming. (See Deutsche Telekom Preps LTE-M Rollout in 2019.)
Dutch incumbent KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN) has been splashing the cash on a fancy new extension to its Rotterdam headquarters. Offering an auditorium for 250 people, several meeting rooms and a couple of restaurants, the airport-resembling addition was designed by big-name architect Renzo Piano, whose other high-profile buildings include Paris's Pompidou Centre and The Shard in London.
KPN's new-look headquarters in Rotterdam: Great news for window cleaners.
— Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading