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Mobile

Eurobites: Three Loses Two as Execs Depart

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: UK government knocks heads together on shared rural network; network performance surveys ahoy; Ericsson and Nokia expose themselves.

  • UK mobile operator Three UK has lost two of its senior technical executives with the recent departures of Phil Sheppard, its networks chief, and Graham Marsh, the former director of core technology. Sheppard took to LinkedIn this week to announce his departure, revealing that he will be doing consultancy work for the time being, while Marsh this month started a new job as founder and director of a startup called Infinite Potential, according to his own LinkedIn profile. The departures have come to light days after UK authorities imposed tough new restrictions on Huawei, a Chinese vendor on which Three was heavily reliant. Following that move, the company, which operates the smallest of the UK's four mobile networks, will need to find an alternative supplier for its 4G and 5G radio access network (RAN). Under a contract signed in 2018, Huawei was to build a nationwide 5G network for Three and replace old 4G equipment provided by Samsung, but this arrangement will not be allowed due to the new 35% cap on Huawei in any RAN (measured in terms of basestations or traffic levels over Huawei equipment). While Three's selection of Huawei as its sole 5G RAN vendor now looks to have been a calculated risk that backfired, the executive departures seem unrelated to that move: Sheppard quit before the government decision was announced, Three confirmed to our sister site Telecoms.com. For more detailed analysis of the situation facing Three, see the Telecoms.com coverage here. (See UK opportunity knocks for Ericsson and Nokia.)

  • The UK government has weighed in on talks between the UK's four main mobile operators that were supposed to see the widening of coverage through the creation of a shared rural network. As the Financial Times reports (paywall applies), officials are exasperated with the lack of progress on the issue, and in particular with a proposal by BT on mast access charges which, in the government's eyes at least, threatens to scupper the project. James Heath, director for digital infrastructure at the government's media department, sent an email to the four operators -- EE (BT's mobile operation), Three, O2 and Vodafone -- telling them to "step up negotiations," with a view to getting a deal sorted by the end of this week.

  • EE has come up trumps in the latest RootMetrics survey of network performance, being named top dog for overall performance, reliability, speed, data and call, and joint first for text. EE's aggregate median download speed across the entirety of the UK clocked in at 36.5 Mbit/s, compared with 19.8 Mbit/s for Vodafone, 12.5 Mbit/s for O2 and 11.7 Mbit/s for Three. To simulate real-world conditions, RootMetrics used Samsung Galaxy S9 4G LTE smartphones purchased off the shelf from operator stores and conducted tests with them during the day and night while walking and driving.

  • But it's a different story on another UK mobile network survey, carried out by Global Wireless Solutions in partnership with Jigsaw Research. It found that O2 offered the most reliable network (for the second year running), ranking top in 18 out of 36 locations tested in the UK. EE came second in terms of reliability, though it did collect the consolation prize of most improved network. On a more general level, the survey found that UK smartphone users still rated voice calling, and the satisfactory functioning thereof, as the most important feature of their chosen network, with data speed concerns coming a distant second.

  • Wholesale network operator Telia Carrier believes it is the first carrier in the world to have a 400 Gigabit Ethernet-ready network, following an upgrade based on Cisco NCS5500 series routers. The press release announcing this development is worth reading as it points to interesting tends in the use cases and deployment of IP-over-DWDM platforms and open optical line systems.

  • Major African operator Vodacom, which today announced strong financials for the closing quarter of 2019, has pledged to launch 5G services in South Africa this year by leveraging a roaming agreement with Liquid Telecom. (See Vodacom to launch 5G services in SA in 2020 and Vodacom reports strong end to 2019.)

  • Denmark's TDC has appointed Henrik Clausen as its new CEO. Most recently Clausen was CEO of fancy-dan hi-fi company Bang & Olufsen, though he has had plenty of telecom experience with the likes of Telenor and DiGi.

  • HardenStance, a cybersecurity research firm, has revealed details of what it describes as the world's first 5G cyber hackathon, during which Ericsson and Nokia exposed their 5G infrastructure to the "ethical hacker" community. Taking place in late November at Oulu University in Finland, the exercise shed light on a number of vulnerabilities exposed by hacks that targeted a 5G NR (New Radio) product, a 5G remote hospital and fixed wireless applications.

  • Brits are mad for shiny new 5G phones -- but they're not quite sure why. Such are the findings of new research from Amdocs, which concludes that 35% of UK consumers plan on buying a 5G phone in 2020, despite only 55% of them claiming to know what 5G is. When asked which services they were interesting in firing up their 5G handsets for, 81% said Internet browsing (boring!), followed by streaming services (74%) and connected home devices (32%). For more, see this story on our sister site, Telecoms.com.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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