Also in today's EMEA roundup: Hutchison stokes the UK mobile M&A firestorm; Vivendi closes SFR sale; snapshot of French broadband market.
Telecom Council representatives from the 28 European Union (EU) states decided Thursday that further analysis and discussion is needed on the issues of net neutrality and the abolition of mobile roaming charges, leaving Europe's service providers and users in doubt about the outcome of legislation decisions. With regards to net neutrality, the representatives decided only that the current proposal, which includes the banning of any blocking or throttling of internet content, was "a good basis for further work," but that "more discussion was needed also on net neutrality," according to an official transcript of the meeting. In particular, "a large number of delegations said it was important to have open and non-discriminatory access to the Internet, but that it was likewise important to avoid curtailing innovation and investment." On roaming, the plan to do away with roaming charges within the EU, so that users' price plans apply across all member states, is also on hold, with the delegates deciding that more time is needed to analyze the impact of such rules. In particular, more work is needed on related wholesale price regulation and a definition of "fair use" they decided. In addition, they want to "prevent a situation in which domestic prices would go up to make up for any losses that operators might incur on roaming services." For the full details of Thursday's decisions and outcomes, see this 16-page document.
Things are hotting up in the UK mobile market. According to a Reuters report, Hutchison 3G UK Ltd. (which operates in the UK under the Three UK brand) is following BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA)'s lead in considering a bid for rivals EE and Telefónica UK Ltd. (O2 UK). (See Could Li Ka-Shing Crash BT's M&A Party?, Why BT + EE Makes More Sense and Eurobites: BT in Talks to Buy O2.)
On the other side of the Channel, Vivendi has closed the sale of mobile unit SFR to Numericable-SFR , the cable operator owned by Altice, for €13.37 billion ($16.7 billion), reports Reuters. Vivendi will retain a 20% stake in SFR. Numericable hopes that the acquisition will enable it to compete with Orange (NYSE: FTE), Iliad (Euronext: ILD) and Bouygues Telecom in the quad-play market. (See Eurobites: Numericable Funds SFR Buy With €4.7B Rights Issue.)
Still in France, regulator Arcep has published its latest figures for the fixed broadband market. The numbers reveal that at the end of September 2014 there were 2.5 million "superfast" broadband subscriptions in use (an increase of 34% since the start of the year) and, of those, 800,000 were fully fledged FTTx connections (a 67% increase). The total number of fixed broadband subscriptions in France now stands at 25.7 million.
As anticipated, members of the European Parliament voted on Thursday for the unbundling of search engines from their associated commercial services, reports Bloomberg. No names were named, but let's just say that a big scary company beginning with G isn't that worried -- even the lawmakers themselves say that it's unlikely that the result of vote can be implemented.
Mobile revenue growth in two consecutive quarters has helped Irish incumbent eir slow its rate of overall revenue decline, reports the Irish Times. In its fiscal first quarter, revenue declined 3% year-on-year to €313 million ($390.7 million), while EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) fell 6% to €114 million ($142.3 million).
In-demand mobile operator EE has outlined its opposition to the UK government's "national roaming" proposal, which advocates nationwide network-sharing, saying that the plan would "only increase coverage by 2-4% of the UK geography" and that any benefit from the plan would be "wiped out by 'signal locking' that would negatively impact a much larger number of people than would benefit from coverage."
The former boss of GCHQ, the UK's communications-based intelligence agency, has sounded a warning about the gathering of biometric data by mobile devices, reports the BBC. Sir John Adye was particularly concerned about fingerprint recognition, which is used by Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iPhone 6 and other smartphones.
— Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading