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Eurobites: Wind Tre Socked by Iliad's Entry Into Italy

Paul Rainford
11/28/2018
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Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: TIM makes 5G connection; ADVA targets the network edge; Nokia boosts in-home WiFi, Ofcom tackles UK directory enquiries scam.

  • Wind Tre's latest financials are apparently so bad the struggling Italian operator has buried them in a "reserved area" of its website that ordinary punters cannot access without receiving login details. While trying to obtain access, Light Reading looked at the write-up by the UK's Financial Times newspaper (subscription required) -- grim reading if you are a Wind Tre fan but a ripping yarn if your loyalties are with Telecom Italia (TIM) , Vodafone Italy or Iliad (Euronext: ILD), the country's other mobile network operators. Third-quarter sales fell 15%, while earnings were down 22%. Over the first nine months, reports the FT, Wind Tre's revenues slumped 11%, to €4.1 billion ($4.6 billion), with earnings (before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) down nearly 7%, to €1.4 billion ($1.6 billion). Losses over that period came in at €351 million ($396 million) -- a worrying development for a company with debts of €9.5 billion ($10.8 billion). As previously reported, Wind Tre has suffered largely because of Iliad, which launched a low-cost service in Italy in May and already has more than 2 million customers. Wind Tre has more than 27 million, but nearly 1 million jumped ship in the recent third quarter. The irony is that Wind Tre effectively birthed the Iliad monster when it sold assets to the French company: That sale was done to secure regulatory approval for the merger between Wind Telecommunicazioni and 3 Italia, which brought Wind Tre into existence. Iliad is not its only problem, though. Its efforts to combine and modernize two separate mobile networks were nearly derailed earlier this year because of US sanctions against ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763), its main equipment supplier. Wind Tre does not expect to complete that modernization until the end of next year. And if all that weren't enough, it emerged from Italy's recent 5G auction with just 20MHz of spectrum in the all-important 3.7GHz band. Telecom Italia and Vodafone are flaunting 80MHz each. (See Italy's Struggling Wind Tre Eyes 5G Rollout in Late 2019, Amid the Rubble of L'Aquila, ZTE Tries to Rebuild, ZTE Ban & Iliad Entry Blow Wind Tre Off Course, Wind Tre: The New Weakling of Italian Mobile and Italy's $7.6B 5G Bonanza Puts Telcos on the Rack.)

  • Telecom Italia (TIM) has completed what it says is Italy's first 5G connection, hooking up a prototype smartphone to TIM's live network using Ericsson's Massive MIMO technology and Qualcomm's X50 5G chipset. For the trial, which took place at TIM's laboratories in Turin, the operator used a section of the 3.4-3.8GHz spectrum range, which it bagged in the recent budget-busting auction. (See Italy's $7.6B 5G Bonanza Puts Telcos on the Rack.)

  • ADVA Optical Networking (Frankfurt: ADV) is targeting the network edge with the launch of two new offerings, one of them, the FSP 150-XG480, a 1.6Tbit/s (800Gbit/s full-duplex) service aggregation device and the other, the FSP 150-Z4806 (guys -- these product names rock!), enabling the aggregation of local traffic with a set of Layer 2, Layer 3 and "tunneling protocols" to interconnect through any network. Both boxes will be launched in the first quarter of 2019.

  • Improving WiFi performance in the home is a big deal these days, and Finland's Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is getting in on the act, launching an in-home "meshed" WiFi service to AIS Fibre's customers in Thailand. Those signing up will receive a Nokia WiFi Beacon 3 duo-pack for a "special price," which Nokia promises will end all in-home WiFi blackspot misery.

  • Dutch incumbent KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN) is today hosting a Capital Markets Day, where it will set out its medium-term strategy. Among other aims, it plans to grow adjusted EBITDA organically, partly through a multi-year net opex reduction program of around €350 million ($395 million), and set annual capex at €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion).

  • Swedish media transport company Net Insight AB (Stockholm: NETI-B) is going to have to find itself a new chief operating officer as the current one, Maria Hellström, is leaving in March 2019 to become CEO at a Swedish consulting firm.

  • Wataniya Mobile has been renamed Ooredoo Palestine as part of wider rebranding program that began in 2013. To celebrate the launch, Ooredoo is offering free 3G access to customers in West Bank and free calling minutes in Gaza.

  • UK telecom regulator Ofcom is finally clamping down on those companies, BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) among them, who have sought to exploit the dwindling band of non-Internet users (predominantly the elderly) by charging extortionate amounts for directory enquiry services, which provide telephone numbers over the phone, on demand. Ofcom revealed that a 90-second call to Telecom2, on its 118004 number, cost £19.98 ($25.56), while the most popular service, 118118, heavily promoted by TNUK on TV ads, came in at £11.23. BT's service, at £3.10 for 90 seconds, was a relative bargain. Shame on them all. Ofcom has now set a cap of £3.65 per 90 seconds on such services, which is an improvement but still sounds like an awful lot of money for a short phone call.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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