Eurobites: Orange, Google Join Forces in Africa, ME

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Sky falls in on BT's copper-sweating strategy; MasterCard to launch "selfie pay"; Powa in administration.

  • Orange (NYSE: FTE) has formed a partnership with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) to increase access to mobile Internet services across Africa and the Middle East and take advantage of the growing appetite for smartphones in the region. The plan is to combine Orange's mobile network with the search giant's expertise in mobile apps to offer tariff plans that start include a high-specification, Orange-branded smartphone and a communications bundle with voice, SMS and data from just $40. (See Africa's Data Dilemma.)

  • The chief executive of Sky , the UK triple-play provider, has fired another salvo in its ongoing battle to structurally separate BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) from its network access unit, Openreach . In a letter to the Times newspaper, Jeremy Darroch criticizes BT's strategy of sweating its copper assets through the use of G.fast and other technologies, saying: "This approach will not deliver the 1Gb/s speeds Britain needs and anything less is unambitious. Investing in copper in 2016 is, as Henry Ford would have put it, like breeding a faster horse rather than building a car." On Thursday, UK regulator Ofcom will present its conclusions to its Review of Digital Communications, one of which will relate the BT/Openreach matter -- though some have suggested that Ofcom does not have the clout to enforce a division of the two, even if it wanted to. (See No Case for Openreach Separation – BT and Ofcom Does Not Rule Out BT Carve-Up.)

  • MasterCard is to bring the "selfie pay" concept -- which uses facial recognition technology on smartphones for payment verification purposes -- to Europe this summer, according to a Financial Times report (subscription required). The concept has already been trialed in the US and the Netherlands.

  • Powa Technologies Ltd. , the UK firm whose technology allowed shoppers to buy goods and services more easily on their smartphones by circumventing the need to re-enter personal details at point-of-sale, has gone into administration. The Daily Telegraph reports that the administrator, Deloitte, is hoping to sell it as a going concern.

  • And, of course, today's the day that the moolah-generating monster that is Mobile World Congress kicks off in earnest in Barcelona. To keep track of all the official announcements and unofficial gossip, check our special MWC mini-site here. (See MWC's Millions: Hot-for-Profit in Barcelona.)

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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