Also in today’s EMEA regional roundup: BT launches WiFi calling and VoLTE; Telefónica, Microsoft partner on IoT; VEON scraps GTH move; Telia sells Spotify stake.
BT's Openreach subsidiary has launched what it is calling a "virtual dark fiber" service in response to growing calls for dark fiber connectivity from the UK telecom incumbent. As its name implies, the service is something of a dark fiber compromise, and based on a technology BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) calls Optical Spectrum Access Filter Connect (or OSA FC). BT says it will allow customers to operate their own electronics, as they would on a true dark fiber network, but on top of a connection that is ultimately managed by Openreach. It claims this brings all the advantages of dark fiber (that is greater freedom to control and increase bandwidth) without hindering service and maintenance levels. However, rival operator SSE Telecoms has previously lashed out at the OSA FC product, calling it an "inadequate alternative" to real dark fiber. UK regulator Ofcom last year tried forcing BT to provide dark fiber services in business connectivity markets, but its efforts were dealt a blow when UK legal authorities ruled that Ofcom’s methodology was flawed, following a challenge from BT. (See Eurobites: SSE Scents Victory Over Openreach With Fiber-Through-the-Sewer Plan, UK Backhaul Regulation Will Hinder 5G, Say Telcos and BT Kicks Up Stink Over Dark Fiber Proposals.)
BT also announced the launch of WiFi and 4G calling services by its BT Mobile division. The services mean that customers can make voice calls over WiFi as well as 4G networks and could help to address coverage issues indoors and improve spectrum efficiency at BT. Other UK network operators already offer WiFi and 4G calling (better known in the industry as voice-over-LTE) services to their subscribers. (See Vodafone UK Testing VoLTE on Live Network.)
Spain's Telefónica has teamed up with US software giant Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) to make it easier for customers to use "Internet of Things" devices across the operator's connectivity platform and the software company's Azure-branded cloud. The two companies say they will collaborate on product integration features, "go-to-market" activities and innovation.
Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) has completed the sale of its Indian towers business to American Tower Corp. (NYSE: AMT) for an enterprise value of €478 million ($586 million). The UK-based operator is merging its Indian business with that of Idea Cellular Ltd. to create a new market leader, and sees the towers sale as a means of strengthening its financial position. Both operators have struggled following the late-2016 arrival in the Indian mobile market of a new entrant called Reliance Jio , which has been offering free and heavily discounted services to Indian consumers. As in the US, American Tower plans to rent capacity on its newly acquired Indian towers to the country's mobile operators. (See American Tower Becomes an Indian Power Through $1.2B Deal With Vodafone, Idea.)
Shares in Egypt's Global Telecom Holding (GTH) are reported to have fallen more than 15% earlier today after majority owner VEON withdrew an offer to acquire the 42.3% of the business it does not already own. In a statement, VEON, which operates networks in Russia and a number of emerging markets, blamed its move on the "lapse of time and absence of approval" by the Egyptian regulator.
Swedish telecom incumbent Telia was reported to have said late last week that it had raised $272 million ($334 million) after selling its stake in Spotify, the music-streaming service, to institutional investors. Spotify begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange today.