Eurobites: EE, Virgin Media Fined £13.3M for Early-Exit Excesses

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: MTN, Ericsson carry out 5G trial in South Africa; Orange CFO hints at market consolidation in France; Telia buys IT services outfit.

  • UK telecom regulator Ofcom has fined EE and Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) a combined £13.3 million (US$17.04 million) for imposing what it sees as excessive charges on customers who chose to leave their contracts early. EE, part of BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), must cough up £6.3 million ($8.1 million), having, in Ofcom's view, over-billed its customers by up to £13.5 million ($17.3 million) in early-exit charges. Virgin, meanwhile, was stung for £7 million ($8.9 million), despite overcharging fewer customers than EE. Understandably perhaps, Virgin feels aggrieved, believing Ofcom's decision to be "both unjustified and disproportionate." It now plans to appeal the decision in the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

  • MTN Group Ltd. and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) are carrying out what they claim is South Africa's first 5G customer trial, at the headquarters of technology company Netstar in Midrand, which is located between Johannesburg and Pretoria. The trial system operates on the 28GHz band, with a total operating bandwidth of 100MHz using Ericsson trial antenna integrated radio units and Intel's 5G Mobile Trial Platform providing fixed wireless access in the customer premises.

  • Orange (NYSE: FTE)'s CFO has told a conference in Barcelona that there will be a "window of opportunity" for consolidation in the French market in the first half of 2019, once the reallocation of frequency bands is completed at the end of this year. As Reuters reports, Ramon Fernandez said that Orange would not seek to drive a merger, but suggested that his company could be a "facilitator" for consolidation. Back in 2016 Orange attempted a €10 billion ($11.4 billion) takeover of French rival Bouygues Telecom, but the two companies failed to reach an agreement. (See End of the Bouygues Affair for Orange.)

  • Telia Company has agreed to buy AinaCom Oy, a Finnish IT services company that has around 60 employees and (in 2017) net sales of €15.5 million ($17.5 million). The operator hopes that the acquisition will give it more clout in the enterprise services market. Telia already owns AinaCom's consumer business and fixed networks, thanks to a deal in 2014. Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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