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Eurobites: Virus-led voice-call revival puts strain on UK networks

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: the COVID-19 fight goes on; OneWeb sends up more satellites; connected tractors; throttling Walt.

  • The coronavirus-inspired return of the voice call in the UK, with voice calls on both mobiles and landlines up around 50% since the start of the crisis, is putting the country's mobile networks under massive strain, according to a report in the Financial Times (paywall applies). The report says that the rise in voice calls has led government ministers to demand industry action to improve coverage, with a conference call being held last Friday between representatives from Ofcom, the communications regulator, government and industry to seek solutions.

  • Meanwhile, Europe's operators are continuing to attempt to do their bit to alleviate the effects of COVID-19 on both their customers and their employees. Orange has set up a crisis committee in each of the 26 consumer markets in which it operates, while for its business customers its Orange Business Services division has increased its network capacity and upgraded its service platforms to help companies cope with the increased demand for resilient teleworking facilities. In Spain, where COVID-19 is rampant, Expansion reports that the government has signed an agreement with the main telcos which commits the companies to do all they can to guarantee connectivity, especially in regard to networks that support the emergency services. Similarly, Britain's BT says it is responding faster to requests from the public sector, particularly those relating to healthcare.

  • OneWeb, a London-based startup owned by Japan's SoftBank, sent 34 more satellites into space on Saturday from a launchpad in Kazakhastan in the latest phase of its broadband program, the BBC reports. Last week Bloomberg reported that the company was rumored to be considering bankruptcy protection in the face of a "cash crunch." (See After years in the cold, satellite is hot again.)

  • Cubic Telecom, an Ireland-based specialist in connected vehicle software, has teamed up with CNH Industrial to allow the latter's agricultural equipment brands – Case IH, New Holland Agriculture and STEYR – to deploy Cubic's PACE platform across tractor, harvester and crop protection models. The PACE platform enables worldwide connections to LTE and 5G so that CNH Industrial's customers can keep remotely collecting and managing data related to their land.

    Here on Light Reading, we love a tractor pic.
    Here on Light Reading, we love a tractor pic.

  • Zain and Huawei are to build what they say is the Middle East's first SRv6-based intelligent IP network to support the operator's 5G services. SRv6 stands for "segment routing over IPv6 dataplane" and features simplified network protocols, flexible programmability, slicing, simplified inter-domain transmission and support for IPv4/IPv6 services.

  • Disney+, the streaming service that is due to launch this week across several European countries, is to run with a reduced picture quality in the UK. As the Telegraph reports, the service will use 25% less bandwidth than originally intended following the European Union's request that the major streaming services "throttle" their offering to conserve bandwidth during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and Apple have already cut their use of high-definition video.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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