Eurobites: Vodafone UK Names the 5G Day

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Vodafone cuts dividend following €7.6 billion loss; Openet lands US Tier 1 gig; KPN invests in IoT startup Wirepas.

  • Vodafone has announced that the UK cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London will be "among the first" places in the world to get 5G when the operator flicks the 5G switch on July 3. And in what it claims is a worldwide first, Vodafone will also offer 5G roaming in the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain over the summer. Customers -- both residential and business -- will pay the same for 5G as they currently do for 4G, with Vodafone's first 5G-compatible smartphone going on sale next week, along with a 5G router for those without decent fixed-line broadband access. Vodafone is also planning to give the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, home of the Wasps rugby and netball teams, the 5G treatment, promising their fans the "best-connected sporting seats in the country."

  • But Vodafone may be less keen on trumpeting its latest financials, which show a loss of €7.6 billion (US$8.5 billion) for the year, partly due to a hit incurred on the sale of Vodafone India, following the completion of the merger with Idea Cellular. Service revenue inched up 0.3% in "organic" terms to €39.22 billion ($44 billion), dented by increased competition in Spain and Italy and "headwinds" in South Africa. In the light of this, Vodafone has decided to cut its dividend by 40% to help prop up its balance sheet and, in the words of Group CEO Nick Read, "rebuild headroom." Surprisingly, the operator's share price took only a very minor hit, slipping just 0.3% to 131 pence on the London Stock Exchange.

    Table 1: Vodafone: Year Ended March 31, 2019

    2019 (€M) 2018 (€M)
    Group revenue 43,666 46,571
    Operating (loss)/profit (951) 4,299
    (Loss)/profit for the financial year (7,644) 2,788
    Basic (loss)/earnings per share (29.05c) 8.78c
    Total dividends per share 9.00c 15.07c
    Net debt (27,033) (29,631)
    Source: Vodafone

  • Ireland's Openet has landed a contract with an unnamed Tier 1 US operator for the collection and management of data related to connected car services. Openet's Data Fabric offering replaces the operator's existing settlement system, which had become, says Openet, expensive and difficult to manage as the data from local operator networks, third-party partners and subscribers increased in volume and complexity.

  • KPN Ventures, the investment arm of Dutch incumbent KPN, has added its tuppenceworth to the €14.4 million ($16.1 million) investment round of Wirepas, a wireless connectivity platform for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Wirepas, based in Finland, has developed Wirepas Mesh, a hardware-independent radio communication protocol for decentralized networking to power large-scale IoT applications. For the past three years it has been busy building a network of technology partners.

  • Elsewhere on the IoT front, Deutsche Telekom is collaborating with Fetch.AI, a Cambridge, UK-based startup, on what they describe as a "possible economic Internet of the future," involving "autonomous agents" built into IoT devices to provide said devices with "the authority and autonomy to organise themselves free of human intervention." Should we be scared?

  • Israel's Allot has formed a partnership with Rakuten Mobile, the soon-to-be-launched telephony arm of Japan's answer to Amazon. Rakuten will use Allot's network-based traffic management and security software to help it deliver a secure mobile network.

  • A1, which forms part of the Telekom Austria Group, has completed a project which sought to reduce the complexity of its OSS (operations support system) set-up. Catchily called the Next Generation Service and Resource Order Management (NGSOM) project, it was carried out with management consultancy BearingPoint, which contributed its Infonova digital business platform. The pair claim that the implementation of Infonova has delivered a "significant" increase in the speed of order fulfilment and other benefits.

  • Alessandro Pansa has been appointed the new chairman of TI Sparkle, the international services arm of Telecom Italia. TI Sparkle believes that Pansa's background in the public sector will prove useful when dealing with Italian "golden power" legislation (essentially, legislation that allows the Italian government to exercise special powers in matters deemed to have a bearing on national security) and how it relates to issues such as 5G.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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