Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: the cost of soccer rights slide-tackles Sky's profits; O2 forced to throttle Brits' data roaming; Telecom Italia trumpets LAA trial.
Recovery in its Africa & Middle East business segment and a continuation of its strong performance in Spain helped drive Orange (NYSE: FTE)'s group revenues up 1.1% year-on-year, to €20.27 billion (US$23.73 billion), in the first half of the year. Net income was massively down, from €3.23 billion ($3.78 billion) in the first half of 2016 to €830 million ($972 million) this time around, but this was largely attributable to the sale of EE to BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) skewing the figures in the previous year. Domestically, Orange returned to growth for the first time since 2009. For more on the numbers, see this statement.
The rocketing cost of soccer rights took its toll on Sky 's full-year figures, with the pay-TV giant's operating profits down £97 million ($127.5 million) after absorbing the £629 million ($827 million) cost of screening the English Premier League matches. Revenues, however, rose 10% year-on-year, to £12.9 billion ($16.9 billion), with 686,000 new customers added during the year, taking Sky's total to 22.5 million. Looking ahead, Group Chief Executive Jeremy Darroch said that the company will be increasing investment in new original TV content by 25% over the course of its next financial year, as well as rolling out its high-end Sky Q set-top box in Italy, Germany and Austria. (See BT Splashes $1.5B to Beat Sky in Latest Soccer Rights Battle.)
It seems Brits on their European holidays have been eschewing cultural trips to cathedrals and castles in favor of staring at their smartphones and tablets: The Register reports that Telefónica UK Ltd. (O2) has found it necessary to temporarily apply "throttling" on its network to cope with the new, more relaxed attitude to data roaming since the abolition of roaming charges on June 15. A UK customer using his smartphone in Dublin, Ireland found he was unable to use 4G services and was being forced to endure speeds of 0.5 Mbit/s as O2 forcefully applied the data brakes. (See EU Rules Will Trigger Worrying Data Tsunami, Says BICS.)
Telecom Italia (TIM) is claiming a world first with its demonstration of speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s on its 4.5G live mobile network using Licensed Assisted Access (LAA). LAA is a variant of LTE, which enables LTE networks to make use of unlicensed spectrum to increase network capacity. The operator says the 1Gbit/s service will be commercially available from September in certain areas of Milan and Turin, before being rolled out to other large cities. The test was carried out using an Asus smartphone supported by Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)'s Snapdragon 835 mobile platform with an LTE X16 integrated modem and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)'s LTE-LAA network technology.