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Eurobites: Jan du Plessis to step down as BT chairman

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Vodafone's European integration plan trundles into action; MTN Syria fights judicial guardianship ruling; Hyperoptic does its bit for the digital divide.

  • BT Chairman Jan du Plessis, who joined the UK incumbent operator in 2017 from mining giant Rio Tinto, has announced he plans to step down from the role as soon as a successor can be found. "BT is a fantastic company and it is a huge privilege and responsibility to be its Chairman. But after 17 years of demanding roles as Chairman of significant FTSE companies, I know the time is now right for me to step down and focus on other interests," du Plessis said, in a prepared statement.

  • Name badges are being printed off at Vodafone UK, with the appointment of two new members to its board as part of a wider company attempt to become one big European happy family rather than the disjointed sum of disparate parts. Andrea Dona will become UK network and development director, while Ahmed El Sayed is made UK IT director. Ahmed will also take on "functional leadership" of digital engineering for the group's European digital and IT team. As reported previously, Scott Petty, currently Vodafone UK's chief technology officer, will become director of digital and IT for Vodafone Group. (See Vodafone plans one-for-all European strategy to boost profits.)

  • MTN Group says it "strongly disagrees" with a Syrian court's decision to place its Syrian subsidiary under judicial guardianship for alleged violations of the terms of its licensing contract, and says it plans to file an appeal and is "considering other appropriate steps to take in light of the ruling." Under the terms of the judicial guardianship, MTN Syria minority shareholder TeleInvest will be responsible for managing day-to-day operations.

  • In other MTN news, the group's Nigerian division saw full-year EBITDA grow 9.7% to 685.7 billion Nigerian Naira (US$1.79 billion) on service revenue that increased 14.7% to NGN1.3 trillion ($3.4 billion). The operator said that voice revenue growth was 5.9% over the year, though this was subdued in Q2 due to pandemic-induced restrictions, before an uptick occurred in the second half of the year. Looking ahead, MTN Nigeria says it will fast-track the rollout of 4G sites to increase population coverage.

  • UK altnet Hyperoptic has launched a new "affordable" tariff for households receiving means-tested welfare payments, allowing them to get discounted rates on its 50Mbit/s and 150Mbit/s broadband tiers on rolling contracts. The 50Mbit/s service is reduced from 25 to 18 per month for broadband and phone, while the 150Mbit/s service is reduced from 38 to 28 per month. Affordable connectivity has become a massive issue during the UK pandemic lockdown as families grapple with home-based schooling.

  • Meanwhile, Hyperoptic's larger rival, CityFibre, has begun work on extending its full-fiber network in North Tyneside, in north-east England. Construction work has started in the Riverside area of North Shields, with the rest of the borough set to follow. IQA Elecnor is the company doing the digging on CityFibre's behalf.

    Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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