Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Telefónica, SEAT and friends form connected-car collective; Openreach expands its fiber army; Aria Network has new boss.
In a development that echoes the recent tussle between Elliott Management and Vivendi for control of Telecom Italia, Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN) has been targeted by an activist investor that wants the Nordic operator to spin off its towers operation and increase its debt. As the Financial Times reports (subscription required), Constructive Capital told Telenor's board in a letter seen by the FT that its proposal could raise the operator's share price by up to 84%, and in turn create "new growth opportunities," using its shares to fund acquisitions. (See Telecom Italia chairman blasts Vivendi as shareholder dispute continues.)
Telefónica has joined forces with Spanish carmaker SEAT and a number of other organizations to initiate a connected-cars pilot project that falls within the scope of "5G Barcelona," itself a program intended to make the Catalan capital Europe's "benchmark 5G hub." The pilot will embrace both safety- and "infotainment"-related aspects of 5G technology in a connected-car context.
Openreach , the quasi-autonomous network access arm of BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), is recruiting another 3,000 apprentice engineers over the next 12 months to help implement its "Fibre First" program in the UK. These are additional to the 3,500 recruited in the last 12 months, according to company spokeswoman. The announcement coincides with the unveiling of the next 11 new locations where it will be building FTTP networks in 2019 and a commitment by Openreach to publish more specific plans about its FTTP program henceforth, including details of the specific exchanges where FTTP is currently being rolled out. (See Eurobites: Openreach Recruits Its Fiber Army and BT looks more bloated than ever.)
Aria Networks Ltd. , the UK-based network optimization specialist that has long been developing software tools with integrated AI capabilities, has appointed Robert Curran as its new CEO. He replaces George Shanks, who becomes the company's chairman. Aria is one of the few companies that is part of the race to introduce AI into comms networking but which hasn't just jumped aboard the bandwagon -- it has been developing network management products based on artificial intelligence algorithms since 2005 and has a number of Tier 1 operators, including Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), as customers. (See The AI-Driven Telecom Network Is Near & Necessary.)
Huawei's envoy to the EU has hit back at what he describes as "slander" and "discrimination" slung at Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd and other Chinese companies attempting to do business in Europe. As the Financial Times reports, Ambassador Zhang Ming warned that attempts to stop the use of Chinese technology in European 5G rollouts could have "serious consequences." He added: "Now someone is sparing no effort to fabricate a security story about Huawei … I do not think that this story has anything to do with security."
Here at Eurobites Towers, team bonding sessions usually revolve around Greco-Roman wrestling on the corporate hearth rug, but maybe we need to get with the 21st century program and embrace the brave new, non-sweaty world that is e-sports. Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) is certainly convinced that e-sports (that's collective gaming, to the uninitiated) is the future: The operator has just added two new games to its own e-sports "Hero League" as part of its stated aim of "turning a hobby into a profession." But will virtual oranges be provided at half-time?