- Infrastructure investor Cordiant Digital buys Polish towers firm, embarks on a spending spree
- EE and Vodafone delay the re-introduction of EU roaming fees
- BT’s copper line replacement PR challenge
The emergence of a significant new European digital infrastructure player and some challenging moments for major UK service providers lead the way in today’s news round-up.
Investment firm Cordiant Digital Infrastructure has agreed to acquire Warsaw-based Emtel, which operates 521 mobile and broadcast towers, a national fibre network, an IoT network of smart city sensors and DAS sites and the national broadcast network in Poland, for £352 million from Alinda Capital Partners. The acquisition is subject to regulatory and governmental approvals. The move follows Cordiant Digital’s £306 million acquisition last year of České Radiokomunikace (CRA), which operates more than 660 telecom towers and a 3,730km fibre network in the Czech Republic, and a long-distance fibre network in Norway. In addition to the planned acquisition of Emtel, Cordiant Digital has also splashed US$74 million on New York City-based DataGryd Datacenters, which currently occupies about 170,000 sq ft of space in the 60 Hudson building in the Tribeca neighbourhood of NYC. And Cordiant Digital, which describes itself as a company that invests in “the plumbing of the Internet,” noted in a statement to the London Stock Exchange that it plans to issue new shares to raise fresh funds (in part to support the Emtel acquisition), and that it has “a pipeline of attractive opportunities under active due diligence and negotiation in excess of €2 billion in North America and Western Europe alongside organic expansion opportunities within its portfolio,” with the new acquisition targets including data centre platforms, telecoms towers and fibre networks. For more insight into the Emtel deal, see this announcement.
It’s January 6, 2022, the day in the UK that Vodafone and EE (the toupée now so intimately glued to BT’s anti-takeover polished pate that it is almost impossible to see the join except under a microscope) were to have re-introduced the roaming charges that were illegal when the country was a member state of the EU. Subscribers and consumer protection organisations have complained long and hard about the re-imposition of the hated charges and their campaign has met with some limited success. Vodafone has announced the charges will not come into force today but, due to unspecified “technical reasons”, will be held in abeyance until sometime in March. However, EE’s price rise moratorium will much shorter, lasting only until the end of this month - at a time when the Omicron variant is running amok across Europe and almost no-one is travelling anywhere. Still, it’s the thought that counts and, after all, every little helps. Back in June last year, EE was first out of the traps to confirm it would be bringing back roaming charges in Europe, claiming, with the usual straight face atop the brass neck, that the levy will “support investment into our UK-based customer service and leading UK network”. Three UK will bring roaming charges back on May 23, 2022. In the run-up to Brexit, the three mobile operators trumpeted that they had “no plans” to bring-back roaming charges once the Brexit was complete, but then they did.. When the deed was done, they changed their tunes whist denying that they had ever misled the public. What a shocker. Quite how the new charges will be presented as yet another BBB (Big Brexit Benefit) remains to be seen but we can be sure that massed ranks of contortionists in the PR departments of the operators are turning themselves inside out to frame a blatant £2 a day money-grubbing exercise as another triumph of UK exceptionalism. It’s the good old Bulldog Spirit and a patriotic duty you know. Britain can take another rip-off - or at least the subscribers can when making calls or using data in Europe.
His Master’s (Digital) Voice... Meanwhile, BT has been forced, by public opinion and a campaign by the media, to clarify plans to remove all traditional landline phone connections by 2025. The operator wants soon to start doing away with some of the local loop copper connections that have served rural and remote communities, the vulnerable and the elderly for well over a century now and replace them with its “Digital Voice” system, which is described as a new service based on “enhanced” (and presumably broadband-based) Internet-enabled handsets. After an intervention by the Northern Echo, a daily newspaper covering the North Yorkshire and County Durham regions in North-East England, BT issued this statement: “We have only begun moving customers who already have a broadband connection in their home and have put measures in place to ensure customers flagged as vulnerable customers who do have BT broadband are not upgraded until much later in the programme... We promise not to leave any customer without a connection. We are urgently reviewing whether customers due to be upgraded to Digital Voice live in mobile not spots. If they are, we are looking to pause their upgrades. In tandem we are reviewing alternative technologies that could provide connectivity in mobile not spots during a power outage.” Try telling all that to your granny!
The O-RAN ALLIANCE Security Focus Group (SFG) has provided an update on its efforts to create specifications that “enable mobile network operators to deploy and operate an open RAN that meets and exceeds industry expectations for an open, interoperable, and secure system.” The work includes the development of security requirements specifications, threat modelling and remediation analysis, security test specifications and more. It is also collaborating with other O-RAN Alliance Working Groups on additional security enhancements, such as securing the Near Real-Time RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) and associated xApps and interfaces. You can find the update here.
With multiple 5G service launch delays already behind it, and its first service coverage obligation coming up in just six months, DISH Network has appointed its head of retail wireless services, John Swieringa, President and Chief Operating Officer of DISH Wireless, which encompasses responsibility for the company’s Open RAN-based 5G network that is being built in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Dish had expected to launch its initial 5G service in las Vegas before the end of last year, but that didn’t happen: A recent drive test of 5G networks in Las Vegas by the team at Signals Research Group (SRG) showed the Las Vegas rollout to be far from ready for any kind of commercial launch. Swieringa, who will report directly to DISH CEO Charlie Ergen, now has until June to help Dish Wireless meet its licence obligation to cover 20% of the US population with its 5G service, a target that rises to 70% population coverage only a year later: We trust his bonus scheme is commensurate with the size of that task. For more on his appointment, see this press release.
Warp Speed: Branching out into wooden satellites. In Japan, the University of Kyoto and the big logging company Sumitomo Forestry are designing a wooden satellite that, it is hoped, will be launched next year. The “LignoSat” will be a 10 centimetre square cube made of solar panels and white oak, a plentiful and renewable natural material that is not only cheaper than aluminium, steel, titanium or other metals used in space vehicles and devices, but is also environmentally-friendly because its burns to charcoal dust and ashes during atmospheric re-entry. Another advantage is that wooden satellites are very cheap compared to conventional satellites because they do not need to carry electromagnetic shielding. Kyoto University and Sumitomo Forestry are experimenting with a variety of woods that might have the strength and durability to be used in future, bigger, orbital vehicles. Who knows? The day may come when astronauts will routinely visit the International Space Shed. The notion of a wooden satellite is not new. Back in the mid-1980s Russia tried to build a wooden space shuttle to carry cosmonauts into orbit but the experiment ended in the 1990s when too many engineers complained of splinters. More recently, a plywood cubesat, the WISA Woodsat, a Scandinavian satellite initiative, was due to fly last month but didn’t. Which is a shame, it would have brought a whole new meaning to the concept of Swedish flat-pack furniture.
EXA Infrastructure, the new network operator that was founded recently when recovering service provider GTT divested its network and data centre assets as part of its emergence from Chapter 11, has put itself forward as the key landing and terrestrial services partner in Italy and anchor tenant in IONIAN, a new 24-fibre pair ultra-low-loss submarine cable link being built by Islalink across the Ionian Sea from Crotone in southern Italy to Preveza in Greece. Read more.
- The staff, TelecomTV
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