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Eurobites: UK government promises to go full gigabit by 2030

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: VEON plans holding company in UK; Nokia invests $400 million in new fund; BT in "exclusive discussions" with Discovery over joint venture.

  • The UK government has used its Levelling Up the United Kingdom white paper to promise "nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population" by 2030, as part of a program which it hopes will spread what wealth there is in the UK from the relatively prosperous south-east to all four corners of the nation. The white paper admits that the UK has "larger geographical differences than many other developed countries on multiple measures," and in recent years the problem has been getting worse, not better. Previously, the government had planned to realize its gigabit ambitions by 2025, but this plan was quietly downsized to 85% coverage by that date instead. (See Gigabit for all should be last of the UK's concerns and Project Gigabit, or how to waste £5B of UK taxpayers' money.)

  • VEON, the operator that is headquartered in Amsterdam but focused mainly on the Russian market, is proposing to establish a new parent holding company in the UK as a move away from incorporation in Bermuda. The weather won't be as nice, but it will, says VEON, place the company in a "jurisdiction with high standards of corporate governance and a strong and transparent legal framework." The company is not anticipating any "adverse tax consequences" as a result of the proposed change.

  • Nokia has committed to pumping $400 million into Fund V, a new venture fund launched by NGP Capital in which Nokia will be the sole investor. The fund, says Nokia, will invest in "promising" edge cloud, cybersecurity, digital industry and digital transformation growth-stage companies. NGP Capital is a global venture capital firm with over $1.6 billion under management. Since 2005 it has invested in more than 100 companies.

  • BT has revealed that it's in "exclusive discussions" with Discovery on the setting up of a 50/50 joint venture that would bring together BT Sport with Eurosport UK, which is owned by Discovery. BT Sport customers would get access to Discovery's sport and entertainment content, including the Discovery+ streaming app. BT says it is hoping to conclude the talks in early Q1 and have the new company up and running later this year, subject to approvals from the relevant authorities.

  • The ship-steadying continues at Telecom Italia (TIM), where Claudio Ongaro has been appointed head of the Chief Strategy and Business Development Office and Simon De Rose made head of procurement. Both execs, who until now have held these positions on an interim basis, will report directly to CEO Pietro Labriola. (See TIM struggles as countrymen refuse to lend it their ears and Don't count on a Telecom Italia renaissance.)

  • Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat have joined forces to provide Greek airline Aegean with an in-flight broadband offering powered by the two companies' joint venture, European Aviation Network (EAN), which partners with terrestrial mobile networks. The connectivity offering will be installed on all existing and new Aegean Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft by 2025, with the first seven entering service immediately. (See Inmarsat sees in-flight broadband take off.)

  • Openreach, the semi-autonomous network access arm of UK incumbent operator BT, is offering a reward of up to £20,000 ($27,000) for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for a spate of recent cable thefts in the Cambridgeshire villages of Swavesey and Witchford. Large sections of live cable were dragged from the underground network using 4x4 vehicles, causing major disruption for hundreds of households.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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