5G and Beyond

Eurobites: VEON Lands Digital Dynamic Duo

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: ARM extends helping hand to Huawei; Kellner's empire grows; and Ofcom plots next 5G auction.

  • Mainly Russian VEON has landed a couple of digital heavyweights as replacements for Kjell Johnsen, who is stepping aside as chief operating officer (COO) but will continue to support the telecom operator as an advisor. In his place as co-COOs (pronounce that how you will), Veon has appointed Kaan Terzioğlu, the former CEO of Turkcell, and Sergi Herrero, who was previously the global director of payments and commerce partnerships at Facebook. VEON gave no explanation in its statement for Johnsen's departure from the C-level suite, although Light Reading understands the latest management changes have not come because of any setbacks for the operator's latest digitalization strategy. Earlier problems triggered a period of management upheaval at VEON, which had previously been focused on the development of a single mobile platform for customers of all subsidiaries. Under CEO Ursula Burns, VEON has moved away from having a common digital content approach for each country and given local operations the freedom to develop their own strategies based on local requirements. Terzioğlu is highly regarded in the telecom sector for the success of his digitalization efforts at Turkcell, Turkey's biggest mobile operator, while Herrero oversaw the rollout of payment and commerce features for the Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram services during his time at Facebook. (See VEON Digs Into Digital Diversity.)

  • UK chip designer ARM will continue to supply China's Huawei after the component maker's legal team decided that its technology has UK and not US origins, according to a Reuters report. Owned by Japan's SoftBank, ARM had ceased dealing with Huawei in May after US authorities banned the sale of US technology to the Chinese company on security grounds. A permanent end to the relationship would have been a huge blow to Huawei, which uses ARM designs in some of the key components made by HiSilicon, its semiconductor subsidiary. The resumption of trading is also good news for ARM, for which Huawei represents an important customer as one of the world's biggest manufacturers of smartphones and other connected gadgets. (See Huawei Prepares for Possible Life Without US Suppliers.)

  • Czech billionaire Petr Kellner has added Central European Media Enterprises (CME), one of eastern Europe's largest broadcasters, to his ever-expanding telecom and media empire after PPF Group, the investment company he owns, agreed to pay $2.1 billion for the assets. CME broadcasts television channels in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Its main shareholder is US telco giant AT&T, which owns a 64% stake in the business it picked up with its takeover of Time Warner. At $4.58 per share, the transaction fee represents a 32% premium to CME's share price before March 25, when it first said it was looking at "strategic alternatives. CME was trading at $4.65 on the Nasdaq at the end of last week.

  • UK authorities have published proposals for another 5G auction days after approving mobile operators' plans to share 4G networks in rural and remote areas. Up for sale next spring will be 80MHz of spectrum in the 700MHz band and 120MHz in the 3.6-3.8GHz band, with no operator allowed to own more than 37% of all frequencies available. The usual coverage obligations have been dropped from the proposals, because Ofcom, the UK regulator, believes the network-sharing scheme will adequately address that concern. That scheme, however, has already attracted criticism for not including 5G technology. Dropping coverage obligations from the latest spectrum proposals means operators will have little incentive to provide 5G services in hard-to-reach areas, raising the prospect of a 5G "digital divide." Ofcom's proposed fee structure means the minimum prices that license winners will collectively pay could be anything between £944 million ($1.2 billion) and £2 billion ($2.6 billion). (See UK's £1.4B '5G' auction looks bad for industry.)

    — Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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