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Mobile services

Eurobites: Liberty Gets Green Light on BASE Deal

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Mobistar turns Orange; Nokia does analytics and drones; Swisscom's difficult year.

  • The European Commission has given its blessing to Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY)'s proposed acquisition of BASE , the Belgian mobile operator currently owned by Dutch incumbent KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN). In a statement, Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: "We have made sure that Liberty Global's merger with BASE will not reverse the trend of declining mobile prices in Belgium in recent years." As a condition of the deal, Liberty Global and BASE will be made to sell part of their customer base to a new MVNO. Liberty already holds an interest in Belgium, through cable operator Telenet . In related news, Liberty Global has withdrawn its bid for T-Mobile Nederland, according to a report in Broadband TV News, citing De Telegraaf. This follows the news that Liberty Global is talking to Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) about a possible joint venture in the Netherlands. (See EU to Bless Liberty Deal for KPN Belgian Biz – Report and Vodafone & Liberty Go Dutch.)

  • Still in the land of Plastic Bertrand, Mobistar SA , the Belgian mobile operator in which Orange (NYSE: FTE) holds a controlling stake, is to adopt the Orange brand. Mobistar says the rebranding does not imply any change in the governance of the company and the autonomy of the management.

  • Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) has launched two new analytics services to help speed up network capacity planning and improve IPTV service quality. The former assesses network data to predict how much capacity operators will need when planning for upgrades, while the latter prioritizes "corrective actions" needed to fix IPTV service problems, and is intended to help operators halve the number of customer complaints they receive. The announcement comes not long after rival Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) launched a new video analytics toolkit partly aimed at giving operators more insight into operational aspects of video services. It also marks one of the first moves by Nokia's new applications and analytics business group, which was established following the recent takeover of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and is being led by former Alcatel-Lucent executive Bhaskar Gorti. (See Ericsson Shows Off New Video Analytics Tool and Finn de Siècle for Alcatel-Lucent.)

  • Sticking with Nokia, the Finnish vendor also says it has been demonstrating in Dubai how 4G technology can be used to operate drones in a smart-city environment. The company reckons drones are attracting interest from a variety of verticals, including the healthcare, logistics and agricultural sectors, but says they need to be monitored carefully to overcome government and regulatory concerns.

  • Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) saw full-year net income fall more than 20% year-on-year to 1.36 billion Swiss francs (US$1.36 billion) as intense competition took its toll on the numbers. One bright spot for the operator was its TV business -- the number of Swisscom TV access lines rose by 166,000, or 14.2%, to 1.33 million, more than 60% of which use the cloud-based TV 2.0 service.

  • Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) unveiled a package of portfolio enhancements Thursday ahead of the Mobile World Congress show, including: network performance and efficiency tools; radio access hardware and software upgrades to enable peak mobile broadband speeds of 1Gbit/s; managed services and tools to support application and customer experience management monitoring; and a charging and billing system (revenue Manager 16) that will be available in June. (See Ericsson Enhances Multiple Product Lines and Ericsson's 'Gigabit LTE' Will Benefit Current Smartphone Users Too.)

  • The WP29 group of European data protection authorities says it needs time to study the ramifications of the so-called EU-US Privacy Shield, which has been proposed as a replacement to the Safe Harbor data transfer agreement, reports Reuters. The group isn't convinced that the new arrangements will prevent US authorities from scooping up the data of Europeans whenever they see fit. (See Eurobites: 'Safe Harbor' Heads for Calmer Waters.)

  • Tigo Tanzania , which claims 10 million customers, has become the first operator in the African nation to offer the WhatsApp messaging service for free. This could be seen as a brave and possibly foolhardy move on the part of Tigo: Research by Xalam Anaytics indicates that African mobile customers can save anywhere between 40% and 99% of the cost of a normal on-net voice call during peak hours by instead purchasing a data pack and using WhatsApp or another Internet telephony service. (See Africa's Data Dilemma.)

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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