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Eurobites: Virgin Media Mulls Wholesale Access Offer as UK Fiber Market Heats Up

Paul Rainford
4/8/2019
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Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: German 5G auction latest; Huawei gear comes under further UK scrutiny; ETNO rubbishes connected-car WiFi (again); BT wins NATO deal.

  • Liberty Global is considering plans to allow its UK subsidiary, Virgin Media, to rent its cable access network to broadband rivals such as Sky, the Daily Telegraph reports. Such a move, thought to be a response to anticipated fiber investment from Virgin's rivals, would result in BT's quasi-autonomous network access division, Openreach, facing competition across half of the UK, says the report. (See Liberty Global 'Reboots' Project Lightning.)

  • The value of bids in Germany's 5G spectrum auction was approaching €3.8 billion ($4.3 billion) Monday morning after a surge in interest in the 3.6GHz band, the "mid-band" most closely associated with new 5G services in Europe. Four operators have now offered about €2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) for 3.6GHz licenses, which means the value of that spectrum has risen sharply from $0.05 per MHz per head of population (per MHz pop) to about $0.09 since Friday. The development puts Germany ahead of most other European countries when it comes to the price paid per MHz pop for mid-band spectrum, although it still lags the UK and Italy, whose 5G auction last year generated about $0.40 per MHz pop and compounded financial difficulties for Italian telcos. Germany is auctioning 300MHz of 3.6MHz spectrum and a further 120MHz of airwaves in the 2GHz band.

  • The technical director of the UK's GCHQ National Cyber Security Centre, Dr Ian Levy, has told the BBC's Panorama current affairs show that Huawei's "shoddy" engineering practices could lead to its equipment being banned from the country's government networks. Levy told Panorama: "The security in Huawei is like nothing else -- it's engineering like it's back in the year 2000 -- it's very, very shoddy," and he remains unconvinced that the vendor has really grasped the nettle when it comes to putting things right. The full Panorama program, Can We Trust Huawei?, will be shown tonight in the UK. (See Huawei Poses Security Threat, Says UK Watchdog and ZTE Labeled Security Risk by UK Government.)

  • As the European Parliament prepares this week to vote on the future of automotive connectivity in the region, the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO) has again made the case for cellular technology over WiFi, which the EU wonks seem to be favoring. In a statement, ETNO said: "Europe needs to stay ahead in the global competition for the future of automotive business models. If we mandate only an older technology like wifi 802.11p and exclude a future-proof one like 5G, we put Europe behind global peers like the US, South Korea and China … For this reason, we believe that Members of the European Parliament and Member States now have a unique opportunity to make this right." (See Volkswagen Plan Is Latest 5G Car Wreck for German Telcos.)

  • BT has signed a new three-year agreement with NATO's Communications and Information Agency (NCI). The deal covers a range of support services and is valued at €5.9 million ($6.6 million). The UK incumbent already connects more than 70 NATO locations internationally.

  • Finland's Elisa is to start shipping 5G home router devices from Nokia by the end of June. The operator says it has already established 5G networks in Helsinki, Tampere, Turku and Jyväskylä.

  • Norway's Tampnet, which describes itself as operating the world's largest offshore high-capacity communication network in the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico -- connecting off-shore facilities to land-based networks -- has appointed Telenor veteran Frode Støldal as its new chief digital officer.

  • EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has told a French radio station that Europe "must take the lead" in the creation of a digital tax that will ensure online giants such as Google and Amazon pay their fair share when it comes to funding schools, hospitals and welfare in the EU countries where they make gazillions each year. As Reuters reports, EU member states have to date found it hard to agree the way forward on a digital tax strategy.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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