Eurobites: Satellite comms getting mighty crowded, Inmarsat's Suri warns

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Africa Data Centres expands; Scottish broadband project sets sail; Qualcomm and Google offer infotainment wizardry to French carmaker Renault.

  • In the world of satellite communications, something's got to give. That's the view of former Nokia and now Inmarsat boss Rajeev Suri, who has been telling the Telegraph (paywall may apply) that he believes there are just too many companies sending up satellites and spreading connectivity across the globe. "There are too many players and a fragmented market," says Suri, citing Starlink, low-Earth orbit constellations and China's plans for a giant constellation. As the newspaper reports, the pandemic and its attendant travel restrictions (the company specializes in satellite broadband services for airlines and shipping) have hit Inmarsat hard, with sales decreasing by $106 million last year. (See Could Inmarsat offer the world's best private 5G network? and After years in the cold, satellite is hot again.)

  • Africa Data Centres claims it is about to embark on the continent's largest ever data center expansion program, with a plan to build ten "hyperscale" facilities in ten countries over the next two years at a cost of more than $500 million. The whole shebang, which will more than double the company's African footprint, is being funded through new equity and loans to Africa Data Centres' parent company, Liquid Intelligent Technologies.

  • Global Marine says it has completed the initial subsea fiber-optic cable route survey scope for the Scottish Government's "Reaching 100%" (R100) program which covers inter-island connections between Orkney, Shetland and the Inner Hebrides, as well as two connections back to the Scottish mainland. Three survey vessels were mobilized on the project to complete specific scopes of geophysical and geotechnical survey work along the different cable routes – including keeping an eye out for unexploded wartime bombs. The R100 project is being delivered by Openreach, BT's semi-autonomous network access division, and promises speeds of at least 30 Mbit/s to every premises in Scotland – including the wild and woolly bits up north.

  • French carmaker Renault has chosen a combination of Qualcomm chippery and Google software wizardry to bring a "rich and immersive in-vehicle experience" to the new Mégane E-Tech Electric. Specifically, Renault will the use Qualcomm's third-generation Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit Platforms for the car's all-singing, all-dancing "infotainment" system, which will come equipped with built-in Google apps and services.

  • Irish operator Eir saw EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) grow 13% year-on-year in its fourth quarter, to €22 million ($26.1 million), on reported revenue that was up by 10%, to €331 million ($392 million). The number of fiber broadband customers on the Eir network increased by 7%, to 819,000 customers, while the number of postpaid mobile subscribers increased by 10%, to 850,000 and the Eir TV customer base rose 6%, to 83,000. Overall, the figures were in line with the company's expectations.

  • UK altnet Hyperoptic has published a white paper, The Future of Social Housing, which examines how smart technologies are addressing some of the challenges faced by social housing providers, not least the ravages caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Among other things, it suggests how the likes of smart asset monitoring devices and assisted living technologies could help social housing providers deliver a better quality of life to their tenants.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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