Eurobites: Italian Mobile Merger Moves Closer

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Telecom Italia revs up its fiber; Megafon upgrades network with Nokia; "ice age" coming for Swiss watch industry.

  • Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA and 3 Italia , the Italian mobile units of VimpelCom Ltd. (NYSE: VIP) and Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (Hong Kong: 0013; Pink Sheets: HUWHY) respectively, have inched closer to a merger deal, according to a Financial Times report (subscription required). The FT's sources say that Hutchison looks likely to own the larger share of the combined company, though nothing has been agreed yet. (See Hutchison's Wind of Change.)

  • Elsewhere on the Italian front, Telecom Italia (TIM) is about to launch a 50Mbit/s fiber-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) service in cities covered by its existing fiber offering. It has also begun testing a souped-up FTTC service in Vicenza, using vectoring technology to bring hoped-for downlink speeds of 100 Mbit/s. And it is putting some thought into what will run over its fiber, starting talks with Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) over a potential content deal, according to Reuters.

  • More content news: UK joint venture EE has agreed a deal with Sky for the inclusion of Now TV, Sky's pay-as-you-go on-demand service, on EE's TV offering.

  • MegaFon has chosen Nokia Networks to upgrade its Russian network to 4G, deploying the vendor's Single RAN Advanced platform. The operator has also just released its financials for the full year, recording a 28.8% reduction in net profits to 36.7 billion Russian rubles (US$593 million), a fall it attributes largely to the depreciation of the ruble in the fourth quarter.

  • Middle East operator Etisalat has formed a partnership with Telia Carrier , using the Nordic firm as its global Internet backbone provider. Etisalat serves 169 million customers across 19 countries.

  • Tele2 Norway, which has recently been sold to Telia Company , is saying goodbye to Arild Hustad, its former executive vice president and CEO. His departure is part of the fallout from the completion of the sale.

  • Vodafone UK is launching WiFi calling and voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) services this summer. The operator says it has been testing both technologies in its labs over the last few months.

  • Is the Swiss watch industry quaking in its boots at the advance onto its turf of Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), with its newly released fancy-dan timepiece/mugger-magnet? Well, it should be, according to the co-inventor of the iconic Swatch watch, Elmar Flock. In a Bloomberg interview, Flock says darkly: "I do expect an Ice Age coming toward us." (See Apple Watch Has No Time for Operators.)

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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