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Eurobites: CityFibre considers another stake sale to further fiber ambitions

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Vodafone talks up open RAN; Deutsche Telekom teams up on electric vehicle charging tech; what's Welsh for "your call is important to us"?

  • CityFibre is to raise hundreds of millions of pounds to help fund its ambitious fiber rollout program by selling a minority stake in the company to a new shareholder, according to a report on Sky News. The UK alternative network provider, says the report, has appointed two investment banks to seek out a third heavyweight investor to join its two existing stakeholders, Goldman Sachs-backed West Street Infrastructure Fund, and Antin Infrastructure Fund. Sky News' sources say the process will get underway this week, and is expected to take several months. (See CityFibre to Raise £200M, Ramp Up FTTH Challenge to BT.)

  • And in the latest instalment of said rollout, CityFibre has broken ground on two neighboring rollouts in the Thames Valley, west of London, in the towns of Bracknell and Maidenhead. The two projects combined represent an investment of £34 million on CityFibre's part.

  • Vodafone UK has been talking up the attractions of open RAN technology ahead of its rollout to about 2,500 mobile sites. Andrea Dona, the operator's networks boss, said the new-look technology would allow him to automate a lot faster than he could with a traditional vendor. "It opens up the barriers and interfaces, to do much more software-defined deployment, faster time to market in terms of software development and much better maintenance of the existing infrastructure," he said in a statement put out by Vodafone. The operator has yet to announce a decision on the open RAN vendors it will use but has carried out trials with Mavenir, a US software developer, among other suppliers. It decided to embark on a rollout of the nascent technology after UK authorities last year gave operators until 2028 to replace Huawei in their 5G networks. Vodafone's open RAN deployment will cover some of the sites currently served by the Chinese vendor, now deemed too great a security risk to be allowed near UK 5G infrastructure. (See Europe's telco giants come together over open RAN.)

  • Vodafone UK has also launched a range of mobile data plans intended to give private and public sector organizations an easy, cost-effective way to directly provide connectivity to their most vulnerable customers during what is hoped will be the final few months of pandemic lockdown. The plans, which come under the umbrella term of communities.connected and are in a sense extensions of Vodafone's earlier schools.connected program, offer SIM-only unlimited data contracts from £15 per month. Customers can also buy a six and 12 month package, with unlimited data and a free dongle or Mi-Fi device, for £100 and £180 respectively. The plans will only be available until June 2021.

  • Deutsche Telekom has teamed up with Vattenfall, which helps municipal utility companies digitize their sales processes, on the Germany-wide buildout of a charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. Using Vattenfall's Vlink platform, the two companies will target owners of electric vehicles as well as companies that wish to offer their customers charging stations on their parking lots.

  • Ericsson and Telia are collaborating on a project to test the use of artificial intelligence to help with the planning for and prediction of healthcare demands at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden. The project uses data supplied by Telia Crowd Insights, which is anonymized and aggregated from Telia's Swedish mobile network. This data can be used, for example, to make more accurate estimates of how many COVID-19 patients will be admitted to a hospital.

  • Italy's Fastweb has turned to BICS, the international services arm of Belgian incumbent operator Proximus, for IPX security. Also known as signaling network security, IPX security refers to a range of vulnerabilities present in telecom protocols used for roaming interworking. BICS claims to be the world's number one roaming services provider.

  • Scotland's University of Strathclyde is partnering with go-ahead Japanese mobile operator Rakuten to conduct research into so-called "autonomous networks," which allow tasks such as network monitoring, anomaly detection and optimization to be carried out by software rather than pesky humans with mouths to feed.

  • Saudi Telecom Company has cut the ceremonial ribbon on what it says is the largest digital operations center in the MENA region. The facility covers an area of more than 42,000 square meters and can accommodate around 2,300 employees.

  • What's Welsh for "Your call is important to us, but I'm afraid you'll have to listen to Vivaldi's Four Seasons for another 45 minutes before we answer it"? BT has teamed up with the National Poet of Wales to create a Welsh-language poem, Sgyrsiau (conversations) intended to celebration the importance of connectivity. The poem has been commissioned to mark the completion of a major redevelopment of Bangor's BT service center, home of BT's Welsh-language helpline. The poem, with subtitles, can be heard here.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

    Additional material by Iain Morris.

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