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Eurobites: UK Government Urged to Tighten Rules on Prepaid Phones to Help Fight Crime

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Sterlite buys stake in Israeli virtual RAN vendor; Ofcom doubles down on provider performance ratings; Telekom Slovenije does deal with Discovery.

  • The UK government is being encouraged to introduce tougher rules on the sale of prepaid mobile phones, making it illegal for people to buy them anonymously. As the BBC reports, prepaid or "burner" phones have been used widely by so-called "county lines" criminal gangs to facilitate the distribution and sale of illicit drugs in provincial towns across the country. A report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services found that the court orders currently used to block phones suspected of being used by criminals were easily sidestepped, and it called on the government to take a long, hard look at the whole issue.

  • STL (Sterlite Technologies Ltd.) has acquired a 12.8% stake in Israeli virtual RAN vendor ASOCS for an undisclosed sum. Rosh-Ha'ayin-based ASOCS has developed a software stack that enables a virtual RAN implementation by telcos or enterprises for local/private or wide-area networks that can run on standard server or universal CPE platforms. Sterlite says the move will strengthen its wireless portfolio and enable it to "deliver end-to-end open standard 5G solutions."

  • Ofcom, the UK telecom regulator, is taking part in a new initiative which collates data from Ofcom and the UK regulators covering water, energy and banking in a bid to help customers get a fair deal from companies working in these sectors. On the telecom front, the idea is that broadband, landline and mobile customers can peruse the numbers to see which providers are keeping customers happy and which are driving them to distraction. In the first batch of performance scorecards, there are no major surprises: In the mobile sector SIM-only specialist Giffgaff tops the satisfaction/value ratings and Vodafone brings up the rear; on the fixed-line side TalkTalk stands out, but not in a good way.

  • Telekom Slovenije has signed a new partnership deal with broadcaster Discovery, paving the way for the launch of two new channels, Eurosport 4K (showing high-definition sports content) and HGTV (a "lifestyle" channel aimed at women). The deal also includes existing channels Eurosport 1, Eurosport 2, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery ID Xtra, Discovery Showcase and TLC.

  • Dixons Carphone, the UK-based retailer of mobile phones and other electronic devices, has been fined £500,000 -- the maximum allowed -- by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for a data breach last summer that led to malicious software being installed on more than 5,390 tills in branches of Currys PC World and Dixons Travel chains, which are both part of the wider Dixons group. As the Guardian reports, the malware wasn't spotted for nine months, by which time the personal details of around 14 million customers were compromised. It's not the first time the Dixons group has come under the cosh for cybersecurity infringements -- last year the ICO fined Carphone Warehouse for £400,000 for similar failings.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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