Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: new EU rules on online content access; Swisscom feels the heat; Inmarsat and Actility talk IoT; 5G and energy grids.
Russia's Mobile TeleSystems OJSC (MTS) (NYSE: MBT) has unveiled bold plans for investment in high-speed fiber networks as it prepares for the introduction of 5G mobile technology. In a statement, the company, Russia's biggest mobile operator, said it would aim to connect between 40% and 45% of its basestations to GPON fiber technology by 2020, up from 20% today. Moscow-based fixed-line subsidiary MGTS, meanwhile, is to launch the higher-speed XG-PON technology later this year. The fiber upgrade is largely aimed at providing support for 5G, with future 5G services expected to consume far more capacity than today's 4G ones. MTS says it plans to launch a trial 5G service in time for next year's soccer World Cup in Russia, although an official 5G standard is not expected to appear until 2020. The Russian operator is also planning interoperability tests in April on XG-PON and 5G products from Finland's Nokia. (See Russia's MTS to Trial 5G in 2018.)
New rules have been agreed that will allow European Union residents to gain access to their subscription-based online content -- think Netflix and similar services -- as they travel throughout the EU. The agreement, which is still classed as "informal," was made between the European Parliament and Council negotiators. As things stand, consumers visiting another EU country often cannot enjoy online content services because their cross-border portability is restricted by territorial and exclusive licensing arrangements. The new rules now need to be formally approved before they come into force.
Results-wise, Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) could do no more than tread water in 2016, with revenues holding steady year-on-year at 11.64 billion Swiss francs (US$11.65), and EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) falling by 1.2% to CHF4.29 billion ($4.29 billion) on an adjusted basis. This was attributed to the decline in Swisscom's domestic business, price pressure and the cost of winning new customers. Swisscom's TV offering continues to do well, with the number of connections rising by 10.9% to 1.48 million. Looking ahead, Swisscom is expecting a capex of around CHF2.4 billion ($2.4 billion) for 2017, pretty much the same level as 2016.
Satellite operator Inmarsat plc (London: ISAT) has been updating on the progress of its LoRaWAN-based network that it developed in partnership with Actility . Early applications include "asset tracking": In one remote ranch in Australia, the network has been used to track the location, movement and health of cattle, with alerts being sent out automatically when livestock are at risk of being lost.
Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and energy distribution company Stromnetz Berlin have been studying the impact of 5G on the energy sector as part of the 5Grid project at Adlershof technology park near Berlin and at the Telekom laboratory in Bonn. According the companies involved, the test results have so far shown how 5G networks can be adapted to the needs of electricity grids undergoing conversion away from fossil fuels and towards renewables.
Still on the 5G front, Ericsson and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) are jointly trumpeting what they are calling a "research breakthrough" with the creation of (take a deep breath here) a compact silicon-based millimeterWave (mmWave) phased array integrated circuit operating at 28GHz. The circuit, which is the first fruit of a two-year collaboration between the two companies, has been demonstrated in a phased array antenna module intended for use in future 5G basestations.
Facebook must be beginning to rue the day it ever set foot in Ireland. It has already come under high-profile fire from privacy campaigner Max Schrems and now its data transfer arrangements (from Ireland to the US) are now likely to go before the EU's top court thanks to the efforts of Ireland's own data protection commissioner. The privacy watchdog contends that Facebook's use of so-called "model contracts" does not justify its wholesale shifting of users' personal data across the Atlantic.