Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Finland gets LTE in the 450MHz band; Sky prepares for possible M&A action; Millicom seeks new CEO.
Fitch Ratings Ltd. has issued a statement offering its view that the worst is over for Europe's telcos, and that an "improving regulatory environment and growing demand for high speed data should ease the pressure on Western European telecoms and cable companies in 2015." This verdict has led Fitch to lift its outlook for the sector from Negative to Stable. One sign of the improving regulatory environment has been the approval of acquisitions in Ireland and Germany this year that have enabled market consolidation. And although the Fitch report doesn't mention it, further consolidation might be on the cards in 2015 and beyond. (See Eurobites: Vodafone Chews Over Liberty Merger, Why BT + EE Makes More Sense, Could Li Ka-Shing Crash BT's M&A Party?, Altice in Exclusive Talks to Buy Portugal Telecom, Eurobites: Telefónica Gets EC Green Light on E-Plus Deal and Three to Acquire O2 Ireland.)
Finland's Ukko Mobile has gone live with what is claimed to be the world's first commercial LTE service using the 450MHz band. The network, which covers 99.9% of Finland's population, will initially be offered to enterprise and government organizations, with the transportation vertical a particular focus. Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. was Ukko Mobile's partner in the project.
With all the jockeying for position currently taking place in the UK market, it's understandable that Sky doesn't want to be left at the starting line in the quad-play stakes. According to the Financial Times (subscription required), Sky has hired Lazard, the investment bank, to weigh up the company's potential M&A options.
Millicom International Cellular SA (Nasdaq: MICC) , the Sweden-based telecoms and media group that has a particular focus on emerging markets, is looking for a new CEO following the news that the current incumbent, Hans-Holger Albrecht, is to step down at the end of the year, reports Reuters. Albrecht plans to return to the media sector to develop a number of entrepreneurial projects.
Nokia Networks has upgraded Ooredoo Qatar's LTE network with LTE-A carrier aggregation, the first deployment of its kind in this soccer-loving desert nation. Carrier aggregation allows operators to create larger, virtual carrier bandwidths for services by combining separate spectrum bands, boosting network capacity and speed.
The future of Portugal Telecom still seems uncertain: Despite Brazil's Oi having agreed to negotiate exclusively the sale of its Portuguese assets to Altice on Sunday, the deal has been thrown into doubt by the formal registration of a rival bid from Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the Angolan president, reports Reuters.
UK mobile operator EE has devised what it is calling a "micro network" setup to offer voice and mobile broadband services to remote communities that are deprived of reliable cellular voice and fixed broadband services. The micro networks use meshed small antennas that connect back to EE's macro network using its existing 4G spectrum, bypassing the need to build out fixed cables or microwave links for backhaul. (See EE Unveils Its Micro Network Plan.)
Euskaltel , an operator based in the Basque region of Spain, has signed a 10-year managed services deal with ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763). The Chinese vendor is also going to establish a Southern Europe headquarters in the Zamudio Technology Park, where Euskaltel's HQ is located. (See Euskaltel Strikes Managed Services Deal With ZTE.)
Swedish mobile operator Tele2 AB (Nasdaq: TLTO) has formed a partnership with Viaplay, a video streaming service also based in Sweden. The agreement will enable Tele2 to offer Viaplay access to its 3.7 million mobile customers over its 4G network.
Telecom Italia (TIM) has chosen Italtel SpA to coordinate a three-year multi-vendor project for the maintenance and refitting of the incumbent's fixed and mobile network equipment. (See Telecom Italia Awards Network Services Deal to Italtel.)
— Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading