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Eurobites: UK is (almost) totally wired, finds ONS Internet study

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Telkom/Airtel merger in Kenya is off; Sparkle's shiny new CEO; Call of Duty update puts strain on UK networks.

  • Internet access isn't yet universal for UK households, but it's getting there. New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that 96% of households in Great Britain had Internet access in January to February 2020, up from 93% in 2019 and 57% in 2006, when comparable records began. However, in those households with at least one adult aged 65 and over the figure slides down to 80% – though that is still seven percentage points up on 2019. Other nuggets: Nearly half (49%) of adults in Britain aged 25 to 34 now regularly shout at a smart speaker or app, though, again, this figure slips to 17% for those aged 65 and over; 87% of all adults say they shopped online in the last 12 months; and 17% said they did not have security on their smartphone, while a further 32% did not know whether they had security (we'll take that as a "no" then).

  • The proposed merger between Telkom Kenya and Airtel Networks Kenya has been called off by mutual agreement. In a statement, Telkom said: "After carefully reviewing the available options, Telkom has opted to adopt an alternative strategic direction and will no longer be pursuing the proposed joint venture transaction." Telkom also said that planned redundancies have been withdrawn, claiming that the "accelerated digital transformation" and increased demand for data and broadband brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has changed Telkom's outlook and prospects. See this story on our sister site, Connecting Africa, for more background.

  • Sparkle, Telecom Italia's international services arm, has appointed Elisabetta Romano as CEO. Prior to joining Telecom Italia in 2018, Romano spent six years at Ericsson in a range of roles.

    Elisabetta Romano: Ready to Sparkle
    Elisabetta Romano: Ready to Sparkle

  • South Africa based MTN has decided to make an "orderly exit" out of its Middle Eastern markets, with the MTN Syria business first to be handing back the keys. Outgoing CEO Rob Shuter said: "As part of our ongoing portfolio review, we believe the group is best served to focus in the future on our pan-African strategy," seeking to assure investors that the exit was not "some kind of fire sale." Shuter added that macro-economic pressures and currency depreciation in the Middle Eastern markets meant that they were still "a very small contributor to the group." For more details, see this story on Connecting Africa.

  • The strain that gaming puts on broadband networks has been illustrated this week with the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Season 5. UK operators TalkTalk and Virgin Media both reported massive spikes in Internet traffic following the release of the update, with the former reporting a 56% rise in traffic and the latter a 60% uplift. According to Virgin, Fortnite also released a 2GB update on the same day that could have contributed to the increase in traffic.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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