Eurobites: Ofcom Opens Up BT's Ducts Some More

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Safaricom and Vodacom form JV to buy rights to M-Pesa; Three drops Huawei 5G phone; Huawei warns of Berlin Wall effect; happy birthday to GDPR.

  • Under draft proposals, UK communications regulator Ofcom is to force Openreach, BT's quasi-autonomous network access arm, to open up its poles and ducts to fiber providers wanting to serve large businesses. Until now, Openreach has only had to provide this access to providers serving residential and small business customers. Commenting on the Ofcom announcement, PP Foresight analyst Paolo Pescatore said: "This is a huge boost for fiber broadband rollout and will appease most stakeholders. Fiber represents a key foundation for the future digital infrastructure in the UK. More so with the arrival of 5G which will require a bigger pipe in the backhaul to deal with an explosion in data traffic." (See BT Needs a Kick in the Ducts, Eurobites: Ofcom Starts Work on Opening Up BT's Poles & Ducts and BT, Ofcom & the Battle of Britain.)

  • Safaricom and Vodacom are planning to form a joint venture to buy the intellectual property rights to M-Pesa, the mobile money transfer platform that is very popular across large swathes of Africa, from current owner Vodafone, Reuters reports. The deal, which the joint venture partners hope will enable them to take M-Pesa into new African markets, will cost the buyers $13.4 million. Currently, both Safaricom and Vodacom have to pay sizeable chunks of their M-Pesa revenue to Vodafone.

  • Three UK, part of the CK Hutchison group, has become the latest British mobile operator to quietly drop Huawei handsets from its line-up of soon-to-be launched 5G phones, the Daily Telegraph reports (paywall applies). Like Vodafone and EE before them, the folk at Three UK have clearly decided Google's announcement that future Huawei smartphones would have little or no access to Google services and Android updates effectively wipes out the consumer appeal of those devices. (See Google & Tech Giants Cut Huawei Adrift.)

  • Huawei, of course, feels understandably aggrieved over recent developments, and used a conference in Potsdam this week to vent its spleen. Huawei Deputy Chairman Ken Hu likened the erection of trade barriers affecting its business to the return of the bad old days symbolized by the Berlin Wall: "When I arrived earlier, I was told that we are at a historic site where the Berlin Wall once stood. This reminded me of the fact that we don't want to see another wall and we don't want to go through another painful experience. Equally, we don't want to build a new wall in terms of trade, we don't want to build a new wall in terms of technology either." Of course, there are those in power right now who just love a big ol' wall, so Hu may be wasting his breath…

  • Gaming is one of the great hopes, application-wise, for 5G, and Vodafone is hoping to grab a piece of the action. It has launched the Vodafone 5G ESL Mobile Open, a mobile gaming tournament that it says will be the first to feature grand finals in competitive international e-sports played live over a 5G network. The finals of the two games, Asphalt 9: Legends and PubG Mobile, will be contested live on Vodafone's 5G network during Milan Games Week in September, providing, the operator hopes, a showcase for just what this next generation of mobile connectivity can make possible.

  • Stock up on booze, source some party-poppers, because tomorrow sees the first anniversary of the implementation of the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Team Eurobites will be marking the day by reluctantly clicking on a ton of "Accept Cookies" website buttons. The European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO), however, has used the anniversary to ask the European Commission to take a fresh look at the issue of "ePrivacy" regulation and how it relates to the regulatory landscape already established by GDPR. (See Eurobites: Most EU States Still Not Ready for GDPR.)

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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