Eurobites: GSMA Blasts Space Industry for Hogging 5G Spectrum

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Proximus guides for "nearly stable" results; Ooredoo sees revenues shrink; Giffgaff fined; MTS gets new board members; and more.

  • Protectionism in the space industry risks jeopardizing the 5G market in some regions by restricting the amount of spectrum available to operators, according to the GSM Association (GSMA), a lobby group for the mobile networking industry. In research published today, the GSMA said $565 billion in economic benefits "hangs in the balance" amid a territorial dispute between the telecom and space industries. At stake is a chunk of millimeter-wave spectrum that regulators will allocate during the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) in October and November this year. The GSMA claims parts of the space industry are "determined" to limit what the telecom industry receives, blaming "overly protectionist attitudes" for the dilemma. According to the GSMA, 5G could provide a major spur to economies in sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and Latin America if the right spectrum is made available. Its calculations point to a $5.2 billion boost to GDP in sub-Saharan Africa between now and 2034, as well as a $45 billion contribution in South East Asia and one of $20.8 billion in Latin America.

  • Belgium telecom incumbent Proximus clung to full-year guidance of "nearly stable" sales and no change in underlying earnings or capital expenditure, compared with 2018, as it revealed an uninspiring set of figures for its recent second quarter. Revenues shrank 2.8%, to €1.41 billion ($1.57 billion), compared with the year-earlier quarter, while earnings (before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) dipped 0.9%, to €484 million ($540 million). Like other operators in Europe's developed, congested markets, Proximus is heavily focused on cost savings and a shift to a more "digital" business model. It has also recently finalized a network-sharing deal with local rival Orange Belgium that may help to speed up the rollout of 5G technology.

  • Ooredoo, the operator formerly known as Qatar Telecom, reported a 4% drop in first-half revenues, to 14.5 billion Qatari riyals ($4 billion), compared with the year-earlier period, blaming the decline on the widespread shift from voice to data services as well as macroeconomic and currency weakness. There was better news for investors at the bottom of the profit and loss statement, though, with net income up 22%, to QAR841 million ($231 million), thanks to foreign-exchange effects and accounting changes.

  • The UK's Giffgaff, a subsidiary of Telefónica that uses the Spanish operator's O2 network, has been fined £1.4 million ($1.7 million) by regulatory authority Ofcom for overcharging customers. Ofcom says an investigation uncovered an error in Giffgaff's billing system that meant around 2.6 million customers collectively spent £2.9 million ($3.5 million) more than was due. "Getting bills right is a basic duty for every phone company. But Giffgaff made unacceptable mistakes, leaving millions of customers out of pocket," said Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom's no-nonsense director of investigations and enforcement, in a statement. Giffgaff has already refunded about £2.1 million ($2.6 million) to affected customers, Ofcom pointed out, and made charity donations where it was unable to "trace and refund." The regulatory authority also notes that it reported the matter immediately and took rapid steps to make amends. But Giffgaff gets a ticking off for previously failing to provide some accurate information to Ofcom, for which sin an extra £50,000 ($60,900) has been added to its fine. It now has 20 working days to pay up.

  • UK fiber investor CityFibre has started digging up streets in Southend-on-Sea, one of the towns where it aims to provide all-fiber services with retail partner Vodafone. The Goldman Sachs-backed firm, which is casting itself as a high-speed, low-cost alternative to network incumbent BT, is investing £30 million ($33 million) in Southend. It expects the first services to become available later this year and to complete all rollout by 2022. All-fiber networks are currently available to just 8% of UK homes, according to UK authorities.

  • Russia's MTS, the country's biggest operator, approved a semi-annual dividend of 8.68 Russian rubles ($0.14) per ordinary share and named several new board appointees who will report directly to Alexey Kornya, the company's president and CEO. They include: Andrei Ushatsky, the vice president for technology; Arkady Sandler, director of the MTS artificial intelligence center; Leonid Tkachenko, director of the MTS big data center; and Julia Romashkina, the director of corporate ethics and compliance.

  • Welcome Italia, an Italian operator that targets the enterprise sector, signed a contract with ADVA to use some of the German vendor's fiber-optic gear, including its FSP 3000 and ALM fiber monitoring products. The operator's network, which stretches over 2,500 kilometers and connects two main data centers, also features ADVA's ROADMs (reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexers) for automatic traffic rerouting.

    — Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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