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Eurobites: Virgin Gives BT the Heave-Ho, Goes With Vodafone for Mobile

Paul Rainford
11/6/2019

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Germany wavers on Huawei; Ofcom appoints interim boss; Jurassic Fibre lumbers into action; Zen gets £20 million to take on the big boys.

  • UK cable operator Virgin Media is ditching the network of BT-owned EE in favor of Vodafone for its mobile customers, striking a five-year MVNO deal that will see Vodafone supply wholesale mobile network services, including both voice and data, to Virgin Mobile and Virgin Media Business. As the FT reports (subscription required), this will be a slap in the face for BT, which has a wholesale deal with Virgin that runs until 2021. According to the FT, Virgin's deal with BT costs the cableco around £200 million (US$257 million) a year, so it's cancellation will hurt. An FT source "with direct knowledge of the tie-up" told the newspaper that Vodafone undercut BT on price. Lutz Schüler, Virgin Media CEO, said in a statement: "We've worked with BT to provide mobile services for many years and will continue to work together in a number of areas. We want our customers to have a limitless experience -- it's now the right time to take a leap forward with Vodafone to grow further and faster."

    Responding to the announcement, a BT spokesperson said: "The successful relationship between BT and Virgin Media spans nearly 20 years and they remain a highly valued customer. We will continue to provide a full spectrum of mobile services to Virgin Media and support Virgin Mobile customers under our existing MVNO agreement, until they transition in 2022."

  • Germany's attitude toward Huawei is becoming as difficult to pin down as a greasy frankfurter. After giving indications earlier this year that it was unlikely to exclude the Chinese vendor from its 5G rollout, the country's defense secretary is now, as Reuters reports, telling people that Germany could indeed still rule out Huawei from future 5G infrastructure work. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told a cybersecurity conference that if it wasn't possible to frame 5G security rules in a way that would stop foreign governments from eavesdropping on Germany's network, then "one has to ban Huawei from the procedure -- just like other countries have done." (See Eurobites: Our 5G Door Is Open, Germany Tells Huawei.)

  • Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, has appointed Jonathan Oxley as its interim chief executive in readiness for the departure of current boss Sharon White at the end of this month. Oxley, who did not apply for the chief executive role, is currently group director for competition and a board member for Ofcom. The regulator hopes to announce White's permanent successor after the UK's general election on December 12.

  • Its name may not radiate a particularly forward-thinking kinda vibe, but Jurassic Fibre, an infrastructure provider currently focused on the south-west of England (near the so-called Jurassic Coast), is moving ahead with its fiber plans. After receiving the green light from Ofcom, it has begun construction of its fiber-to-the premises network in the area between Exeter Airport, Clyst St Mary and the Sowton Industrial Estate, with trials of the network expected to begin in late November.

  • Zen Internet, of the UK's most highly regarded independent Internet service providers, has secured £20 million ($25.7 million) in credit from the NatWest bank to help it take on its larger rivals. Around half of the total amount is earmarked for the installation of Zen equipment in 250 exchanges, the Greater Manchester-based company said. For more details and comment, see this story on our sister site, Telecoms.com.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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