What’s up with… 1&1 and Vantage, Ofcom, BT

Picture courtesy of Vantage Towers

Picture courtesy of Vantage Towers

  • Vantage identified as 1&1’s rollout laggard
  • Regulator Ofcom casts an eye over the UK’s cloud services sector
  • BT faces further, and more painful, strike action

In today’s industry news roundup: Vodafone-owned Vantage Towers is the company being blamed for 1&1’s throttled 5G network rollout; UK regulator Ofcom has the cloud services sector in its sights; further strike action plans haunt BT; and more!

The company causing a delay in the greenfield 5G network rollout at German operator 1&1 is Vantage Towers, the Vodafone Group-owned passive infrastructure wholesaler, according to the corporate communications team at 1&1. As reported earlier this week, 1&1 said its target for having 1,000 antenna sites in place by the end of the year would be missed, and delayed by six months, due to one of its three network rollout partners failing to deliver. “The most significant partner in terms of volume, which has contractually committed to providing approximately two-thirds of the 1,000 antenna sites by the end of 2022, has recently reported problems meeting its obligations on time,” the company noted in a stock exchange announcement. Responding to questions from TelecomTV, 1&1 has confirmed that its three network rollout partners are ATC (American Tower), GfTD and Vantage Towers, and that “among those, Vantage Towers is our biggest partner in terms of volume”. The Vantage Towers team told us they “couldn’t comment on who 1&1 is referring to,” but that “the plan to provide 1&1 with at least 3,800 and potentially up to 5,000 sites (mainly co-locations) until the end of calendar year 2025 is unchanged. We have always said that the first co-location sites will be made available in 2022 and achieving a stable run-rate after about 18 months. Our guidance stays unchanged.” The news comes at a sensitive time for Vantage Towers, as its parent company is seeking additional investors for the towers firm and, whatever the reason for the delay, this isn’t a good look for the company.     

The UK regulator Ofcom is to look into the position of Amazon, Microsoft and Google within the cloud services market, while looking more widely at “how well this market is working”. The watchdog noted: “We will examine the strength of competition in cloud services generally and the position the three hyperscalers hold in the market. We will also consider any market features that might limit innovation and growth in this sector by making it difficult for other companies to enter the market and expand their share.” According to its estimations, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and Google generate around 81% of revenues in the public cloud services in the UK. Ofcom aims to collect views from interested or affected parties, with a final report to be published within a year. If the market is found to be “not working well”, Ofcom claims this could result in higher prices, reduced service quality and less innovation. If this is the case, the authority can advise the government to change regulations or policy, take competition or consumer enforcement action and propose a full investigation by the UK Competition and Markets Authority. In addition, Ofcom will assess how services such as WhatsApp, FaceTime and Zoom are affecting traditional calling and messaging. In the next year, the regulator will decide whether or not “any limitations” in terms of the ability of these services to interact with each other could cause concerns. The UK watchdog will also explore whether a deeper examination is needed for devices such as connected TVs and smart speakers. Find out more.

Following previous walkouts in July and August over pay negotiations, BT is facing further strike action by members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) on four dates next month: 6,10, 20 and 24 October. The industrial action affects staff at BT and its quasi-autonomous wholesale fixed access unit Openreach, and for the October walkouts includes emergency call operators that handle 999 calls. BT noted: “We know that our colleagues are dealing with the impacts of high inflation and, whilst we respect the right of colleagues to take industrial action, we are profoundly disappointed that the CWU is prepared to take this reckless course of action by including 999 services in strikes. We will do whatever it takes to protect 999 services – redeploying our people to the most important priority is a normal part of BT Group operations. We made the best pay award we could in April and we have held discussions with the CWU to find a way forward from here. In the meantime, we will continue to work to minimise any disruption and keep our customers and the country connected.” 

After years of hurt caused by US trade sanctions, Huawei is on the cusp of producing its own chips by collaborating with Chinese semiconductor developers to create “US-free” production lines, according to Nikkei Asia. Over the past few years, the Chinese vendor has had to rely on stockpiles and off-the-shelf chips for its telecom products, but having redesigned some of its chip designs to take advantage of “older, less advanced technology”, it’s close to getting a local supply line up and running, helped by government support, according to the report. When the US imposed sanctions, it was almost inevitable that it would light a fire under China’s semiconductor production sector and, while it might be years behind US firms right now, the market might look very different in four or five years’ time – all of which makes the current sabre-rattling around Taiwan’s sovereignty even more relevant to the rest of the world.      

Australian operator Optus has admitted it suffered a cyberattack and is now investigating unauthorised access of current and former customers’ information, including names, dates of birth, physical and email addresses, and ID numbers. The telco claimed payment details and account passwords had not been compromised in the hack attack, which was shut down “immediately” after it was discovered. The company said it is working with the Australian Cyber Security Centre to mitigate risks to customers, and has notified the nation’s police and key regulator authorities. “We are devastated to discover that we have been subject to a cyberattack that has resulted in the disclosure of our customers’ personal information to someone who shouldn’t see it,” said Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, who urged customers to have “heightened awareness” across their accounts. The telco said that its mobile and internet services were untouched by the violation and are operating as normal.

The US self-proclaimed ‘un-carrier’ T-Mobile has found a beneficial new capability of 5G. It is deploying 5G-connected cameras, which use artificial intelligence (AI) to detect the first sign of wildfires. For the move, it has partnered with utility provider Portland General Electric and Pano AI, a provider of disaster preparedness technology solutions. Currently, the detection system is being deployed in Oregon’s largest city, Portland, but T-Mobile plans to expand it to more areas in the US in the future. See more.

Verizon Business and UK-based health tech specialist Visionable have expanded their partnership to include the development of a range of connected healthcare solutions for the US market, building on the existing focus the companies already have on the healthcare sector across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia-Pacific (APAC) regions. “Verizon and Visionable are working together on a secure next-generation digital healthcare collaboration platform that enables healthcare professionals to access data, collaborate and share resources... The partnership seeks to address some of healthcare’s biggest challenges, including connecting frontline responders to specialist doctors during emergencies and enabling access to community-led care for patients needing long-term support,” the companies noted in this announcement. Earlier this year, Verizon Business and Visionable unveiled a private 5G network in the south-east of England at a facility “dedicated to accelerating the adoption of connected healthcare technologies for patient-centric care”.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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