What’s up with… e&, Vodafone, CityFibre, Canonical

  • e& ups its stake in Vodafone
  • CityFibre makes an official complaint against Openreach pricing
  • Canonical scores an orchestration win at VMO2

In today’s industry news roundup: e& pumps more cash into Vodafone shares; CityFibre has another go at halting Openreach’s pricing tactics; Virgin Media O2 turns to Canonical for its orchestration needs; and more!

Only two days after Vodafone Group CEO, Nick Read, announced he was leaving the operator at the end of year, a move that put further pressure on the operator’s share price, Emirates Telecommunications Group, better known these days as e&, announced it has increased its stake in Vodafone to 11%. It noted that the rationale for investing in Vodafone has not changed since it acquired a 9.8% stake in May this year, at a cost of about $4.4bn, when it wanted to “gain significant exposure to a world leader in connectivity and digital service at an attractive valuation.” Having sunk to 86.4 pence earlier today, the news of e&’s latest investment gave Vodafone’s stock a lift as it jumped 1.1% from Tuesday’s closing price to 90.7 pence. Vodafone’s current low valuation has triggered speculation that it might be ripe for an opportunist takeover: On that score, e& reiterated that it “has no intention to make an offer for Vodafone.” 

If at first you don’t succeed… Following the recent introduction of the latest long-term discounted pricing plan by Openreach, the quasi-autonomous wholesale fixed access network division of UK national operator BT, its main rival, CityFibre, has filed a Competition Act complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and UK regulator Ofcom. The complaint accuses Openreach of “undertaking an aggressive strategy to foreclose infrastructure competition in the UK fibre broadband market. This strategy exploits the dependency of its wholesale internet service provider customers (ISPs), deterring them from placing orders with alternative fibre providers.” CityFibre CEO, Greg Mesch, noted: “We welcome fair competition, but BT Openreach’s behaviour is straight out of the playbook of a dominant operator using its market power and advantages to maintain its dominance. If left unchecked, BT Openreach will strangle competition and threaten the pace of the UK’s full fibre roll out,” he added. This isn’t the first time Mesch and CityFibre have made an official complaint against Openreach pricing. In December last year, CityFibre appealed to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) against Ofcom’s decision to approve Openreach’s initial Equinox discounted pricing scheme, but it lost that appeal in July, even though the tribunal noted that Ofcom’s initial consultation process related to Equinox could have been better. Equinox has proven popular with UK ISPs (who doesn’t like a bargain, right?) and has attracted more than 40 customers. Now Mesch, who told TelecomTV late last year that if the CAT appeal was unsuccessful it was likely Openreach would introduce a stream of discounted pricing schemes in an effort to lock down ISPs in long-term wholesale deals, is once again appealing to the UK’s rulemakers to ensure that a level playing field is restored in the UK’s important fibre infrastructure sector.   

UK operator Virgin Media O2 has selected Canonical’s Charmed OSM system as its orchestration platform for hybrid workload management. Charmed OSM is Canonical’s distribution of ETSI’s open-source management and orchestration (MANO) software stack for virtualised network deployments. “Telco Cloud is our strategic, on-premises platform that hosts core network functions, like 5G, [and] Telco Cloud enables us to provide the best services for millions of Virgin Media O2 customers,” noted Alex Boyd, head of Telco Cloud at VMO2. “We use charmed OSM from Canonical, a technology agnostic NFV Orchestrator, to help our product teams onboard new applications. OSM plays a key role in allowing us to play at pace for our customers,” he added. 

A new research centre will open its doors in Brazil in a bid to boost innovation in the field of telecoms R&D across Latin America. The facility will be created through concerted efforts from Ericsson, the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and São Paulo Research Support Foundation. According to the network equipment vendor, the opening of the Center for Research in Engineering Smart Networks and Services 2030 (Smartness) will turn Brazil into “an innovation hub for the telecommunications sector”. Smartness will also operate as one of Ericsson’s “key global research sites”, housing “some of the most experienced researchers in the country in the construction of a new network platform enabled to empower 5G, as well as explore revolutionary 6G use cases”. Part of the facility’s work will be designed to explore the use of artificial intelligence (AI)-oriented cognitive architecture in building “more secure, highly automated, data-driven and more energy-efficient networks”. According to the vendor, with technological advancements, networks will gradually become “cognitive systems with the ability to acquire new knowledge and act autonomously,” acting as “the basic infrastructure for a truly digital society”. Find out more, here.

Macroeconomic headwinds will continue to impact the smartphone sector, which now is expected to narrowly grow in 2023 by 2% year on year, down from a previous forecast of 6% growth, according to the latest data from Counterpoint. Furthermore, the market research company expects the market to continue underperforming in the first half of 2023 and that it will return to growth from the third quarter of the year. A number of factors will come into play, including the persistent “inflation, expectations of future interest rate hikes, souring corporate earnings, China’s stalled economy, the protracted Ukraine-Russia war, political turmoil in Europe and a sweeping new set of export controls on China from the US”, noted Peter Richardson, VP at Counterpoint. He added that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that are focused on the premium segment are “better positioned” to tackle these issues. Liz Lee, associate director at the research firm, added that the replacement cycle for smartphones will stay above 40 months in the next year. There is a silver lining expected from 2024, as the global market for 5G devices is tipped to demonstrate “healthy growth”, while foldables and other form factors will contribute to premium smartphones growth. Last week, IDC said it expects the global smartphone market to shrink in 2022. 

Mobile operators in Israel were reportedly urged by the domestic government to expand 5G deployments and cover sites all over the country in an effort to bring the nation to the fore of global innovation. Reuters cited the director general of the Ministry of Communications, Liran Avisar Ben-Horin, as saying that 5G sites should be expanded so that customers are able to benefit from innovations, such as smart stadiums and hospitals. The news agency added that Israel has launched its second 5G auction, with an aim to allocate ultra-fast 26GHz frequencies to meet the needs of mobile communication in Israel. The country’s first tender was in 2019, when it granted spectrum in the 700MHz, 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands. Read more.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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