Eurobites: Industry Slams New EU Telecom Rules

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Broadband progress too slow, say EU auditors; Telefónica names the date for all-IP migration; EE announces 5G trial in east London.

  • The European Parliament stayed up late last night as they thrashed out an agreement to update the EU's telecom rules, more long-windedly known as the Electronic Communications Code. Among the new rules and aims is a commitment to making 5G available by the end of 2020 and the capping of the price of intra-EU calls to no more than 19 cents per minute, the latter of which has upset ETNO to no end. In its response statement, ETNO described the agreement as a "missed opportunity," and claimed that the capping of intra-EU calls was nothing more than a "political smokescreen for lack of significant progress in the other parts of the Code." The GSM Association (GSMA) , which represents many a mobile operator, followed up with a swift kick to the cojones, stating: "This agreement is a political compromise that fails to confront long term challenges for the European telecommunication sector and could hinder deployment of 5G networks in Europe, weakening the region’s competitiveness and harming European citizens." A popular decision, then.

  • Elsewhere in the European corridors of power, the EU Auditors have declared that several member states will fail to hit their targets on high-speed (at least 30 Mbit/s) broadband by 2020. The audit singled out rural areas as a particular problem: It found that 14 out of the 28 member states have less than 50% coverage in rural areas, and that just 15% of all EU households had subscribed to "ultra-fast" broadband by mid-2017.

  • Telefónica 's international wholesale services arm has stuck its neck out and said that the migration of voice traffic to its all-IP international network will be completed by June 30.

  • UK mobile operator EE plans to switch on what it claims is the UK's first live 5G trial network, in east London in October. Five small businesses and five homes in this hip and happening area of the capital will get the chance to test out the technology, using prototype 5G broadband devices. In the coming weeks, EE will use social media to find the lucky (or otherwise) 5G guinea pigs.

  • Expectations of a bidding war for pay-TV giant Sky are ramping up following the UK government's decision to approve competing bids from Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and 21st Century Fox . "The decision is in line with what most observers expected and effectively marks the start of a major showdown between Comcast and Disney over Sky Europe," says Ovum Chief Analyst Ed Barton. "At stake is the leading distributor of high-end visual entertainment into UK, German and Italian households, a major player in sports broadcasting, a trusted partner for Hollywood majors and one of the main drivers for technical innovation in the domestic viewing experience. Assets of this quality are rarely available and I expect this to be reflected fully in the eventual sale price," added the analyst. Sky's share price edged up a little further Wednesday morning to £13.59, giving the company a market valuation of about £23.35 billion ($31.4 billion). (See UK Ruling Sparks Bidding War for Sky.)

  • Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) is testing a blockchain-based approach to tackling smartphone theft, which will make it possible to anonymize blocked IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers and make them available to other partners, such as other network operators, which should help prevent thieves from using the stolen smartphones on other mobile networks.

  • The Orkney Islands, those (usually) wind- and rain-lashed northern outposts of the UK, are playing host to a Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)-led trial of an underwater data center. Project Natick sees a small data center, housed in a sealed cylindrical container, being dunked into the Orkneys' chilly waters. The submersion will obviously help keep the data center cool, but the Orkneys also have the advantage of renewable energy on tap. Microsoft says the data center will be "self-sustaining," using the locally available solar and wind power and nothing else to keep the servers humming. For the full story, see the video below.

  • Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD)'s expertise in IoT technology is being brought to bear on a project in Africa that will help provide fortified flour to millions of people. The Sanku-PHC project will use the operator's IoT SIM and USB Connect technology to help workers monitor processes at 3,000 small-scale flour mills over the next four years. In the past, one Sanku worker could only monitor 25 mills; the introduction of the new technology will, it is hoped, connect the same worker to 100 mills, which will fortify flour for 500,000 people.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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