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Eurobites: MWC Organizer Plays Down Coronavirus Threat

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Altice makes moves in Israel; Italy fines operators for billing collusion; Belgian regulator proposes temporary spectrum licenses.

  • The GSMA, which organizes the forthcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, has issued a statement regarding special measures it is putting in place to minimize the threat posed by the coronavirus, which has to date claimed 362 lives, all but one of those in China. The organization, which claims that it has so far seen no adverse impact on the number of MWC registrations, says it will work with the Fira de Barcelona venue to, among other things, increase its cleaning and disinfection program across all "high-volume touchpoints", and bolster onsite medical support. It urges exhibitors and attendees to "implement appropriate guidelines and protocols as suggested by the WHO [World Health Organization]," and directs them to the up-to-date WHO advice.

  • Altice has confirmed it is seeking to cement its position in Israel by confirming that its subsidiary, cable and mobile service provider Hot Telecom, has made a bid to acquire Partner Communications, the country's number two mobile operator. If a deal is concluded, it would make Hot Israel's leading operator, with a mobile market share of around 39% in a country with about 10.3 million cellular subscribers. Partner's current market value is about 2.8 billion Israeli Shekels (US$810 million). Altice has been shuffling its asset pack in other territories in the past year. (See Eurobites: BT Says Adios to Spain, Eurobites: Altice Set to Sell Stake in Portuguese Cable Unit and Altice Raises €1.8B From SFR FTTH Stake Sale.)

  • Italy's antitrust authority has fined operators Fastweb, TIM, Vodafone and Wind Tre a total of €228 million ($252 million) for what it believes was an anti-competitive collusion between the quartet that sought to use the transition from monthly billing to four-week (28-day) billing (and back again) as an excuse to jack up prices.

  • BIPT, Belgium's communications watchdog, is proposing issuing temporary spectrum licenses to allow the introduction of 5G networks in the country by the summer, Techzine reports. This, the watchdog believes, will help surmount the problem of the federal government and the provincial Länder failing to agree in time on the distribution of revenues from the spectrum auction, which is now not likely to take place before the end of the year.

  • BT is planning to hire more than 700 apprentices and graduates for roles in cybersecurity, software development, data analysis and network engineering from September 2020. The operator says it has already hired more than 900 apprentices and graduates during the past 12 months. Under plans drawn up under previous CEO Gavin Patterson, the current incumbent, Philip Jansen, is ultimately looking to cut around 13,000 jobs from the BT payroll, but to date such efforts have been stymied by the need to hire extra help for Openreach, BT's semi-detached network access division, and in other technical-oriented areas. (See BT's Workforce: It's Not Shrinking as Fast as You Might Think and BT Looks More Bloated Than Ever.)

  • Telefónica has hired another investment bank, Citi, to help offload Hispam, a business unit that includes all of Telefónica's Latin American assets apart from those relating to Brazil. According to El Pais, the Hispam assets are worth around €12 billion ($13.2 billion).

  • Here at Eurobites Towers, we like to stay on trend at all times. Not for us the tired chinos or the frankly age-inappropriate hoodies. Oh no. So, as you can imagine, we were particularly excited by news of the world's first 5G-powered augmented reality dress. Apparently, movie fans at yesterday's BAFTAs ceremony in London "watched in awe" through Samsung Galaxy Fold 5G smartphones and on screens as the AR dress, worn by presenter Maya Jama to big up EE's 5G credentials, began to "come to life" on the red carpet. Bet it's a bugger to iron, though.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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