What’s up with… Ericsson, Microsoft and Viasat, Shabodi

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Dec 15, 2022

  • Ericsson sells Russian customer support unit and extends compliance monitoring timeline
  • Microsoft and Viasat team up to connect the unconnected
  • 5G app platform startup raises $10.3m

In today’s industry news roundup: Ericsson offloads some Russian operations and agrees to extended independent compliance monitoring; Microsoft and Viasat team up for satellite and fixed wireless access connectivity efforts in Africa and LatAm; private wireless network application enablement platform startup Shabodi banks Series A funding; and much more! 

Ericsson has agreed to sell its customer support business in Russia to a local company owned by former operational managers of Ericsson’s Russian subsidiary. “The transaction includes a transfer of approximately 40 Ericsson employees, and certain assets and contracts related to the business,” noted the vendor. “Following Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, Ericsson announced the suspension of operations and deliveries to customers in Russia and an orderly wind-down in accordance with applicable sanctions. Approximately 400 Ericsson employees in Russia have been notified of layoffs and have been leaving the company as operations have been discontinued. Going into 2023, Ericsson expects to have a small presence in Russia on a local basis. A legal entity owned by Ericsson will continue to be registered to complete the wind-down and to fulfill legal, contractual, and administrative requirements,” it added.

Still with the Swedish vendor: It has agreed with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to extend the term of the company’s independent compliance monitor for one year, to June 2024. “In 2019, Ericsson entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the DOJ and a consent judgment with the SEC to resolve violations of the FCPA [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act],” noted the vendor. Those corrupt practices relate primarily to activities in Iraq whereby some payments made by Ericsson representatives prior to early 2017 had found their way into terrorist coffers. “As part of the resolution, Ericsson agreed to engage an independent compliance monitor for a period of three years while the company strengthened its culture and established a rigorous anti-corruption, compliance and controls programme. This extension will allow the company, under the monitorship, to further embed best-in-class governance, risk management and compliance frameworks across the organisation,” stated the vendor in this announcement, which comes just as the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published an update on the vendor’s activities in Iraq that references an internal report leaked to the consortium. 

Tech giant Microsoft and satellite broadband provider Viasat have joined forces in a bid to connect 10 million people around the world, half of which are located across Africa. The satellite company is the first to join Microsoft’s Airband Initiative, which was launched in 2017 to close the rural broadband gap globally. The pair will focus on continuing Airband’s efforts to deliver internet access in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Guatemala, Mexico and the US, while expanding the programme to Egypt, Senegal and Angola. In essence, Microsoft and Viasat will partner on providing and piloting technologies, such as satellite internet connectivity (both via geostationary orbit and low-earth orbit satellites) and fixed wireless access (FWA). They will also combine efforts to enable new services, including telehealth, distance learning and education, precision agriculture and clean power – an endeavour looking to “reach new areas through the transformational provision of power and connectivity”. Microsoft is looking to connect a quarter of a billion people across the globe, including 100 million on the African continent, by the end of 2025. Its initiative has already provided internet access to more than 51 million people worldwide, according to the company’s own estimations. This partnership builds upon a previous one between Viasat and Microsoft’s Azure Space platform to deliver advances in satellite connectivity. Read more.

But efforts to improve conditions in rural areas don’t stop there. Tower operator Vantage Towers has announced that it deployed more than 190 non-permanent sites in Germany in 2022 as part of a “fight against white spots” (areas with no 4G mobile coverage whatsoever). This is a temporary solution only until stationary radio towers are connected to the grid, which is expected to happen in two years’ time (sometimes it can take several years due to difficulties in finding suitable locations, opposing initiatives by citizens, and lengthy approval processes). The towers setup has been made on behalf of Vodafone and covers the states of Lower Saxony and Saarland, offering “a quick solution and thus the basis for a digital transformation in Germany in which all citizens can participate – especially in rural areas”, Vantage Towers noted in its statement, available here.

Shabodi, a Toronto, Canada-based startup that has developed an application enablement platform for enterprise private wireless networks, has raised $10.3m to further develop a system that aims to  “accelerate the development and deployment of network-aware applications on Advanced LTE, 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and 6G [deployments].” The “oversubscribed” Series A round was led by CEAS Investments and SineWave Ventures, with previous seed investors Blumberg Capital and Counterview Capital and others chipping in. "We founded Shabodi to address the real-world challenge of simplifying advanced network (LTE, 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and 6G) innovation at the enterprise level for application developers,” noted Vikram Chopra, Shabodi’s CEO & co-founder. “For developers, the network has always been considered a ‘black box’. This is the paradigm Shabodi is enabling as 5G promises to overhaul how enterprises build and deploy applications, no longer constrained by connectivity requirements,” added Chopra, who founded the startup in 2020 with former Cisco and Juniper Networks CTO Harpreet Geekee. Read more.

Spain’s deputy prime minister, Nadia Calviño, has reignited the debate about whether streaming video and cloud services giants should contribute to telco broadband network capital expenditures by stating: “If we want to continue making the necessary investments in technological infrastructure, we need everyone who uses and benefits from them to contribute to financing that investment,” reports Bloomberg. The topic is set to become a hot potato for European Commission, regulators, telcos and hyperscalers in 2023 – see No need for big tech to cough up capex fees to telcos, finds regulators' group BEREC.

It seems no sector is safe from macroeconomic challenges, with the consumer device market, including those driven by extended reality (XR), now feeling the pressure. CCS Insight’s latest research shows global unit sales of such devices, which use augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR), will remain just short of 10 million in 2022. This trend is expected to continue in 2023 when sales are forecast to grow to 11.4 million. “High inflation has hit consumer budgets in many major markets this year and some people, who in better circumstances would have treated themselves to a virtual reality headset this year, have postponed their purchase”, explained Marina Koytcheva, VP of forecasting at CCS Insight. She added that businesses are also increasingly cautious in their investment in XR “until the economic picture becomes clearer”. CCS Insight has lowered its prediction for the XR devices market, and is now expecting unit sales to grow more slowly to reach 67 million in 2026. Despite this, principal analyst for connected devices Leo Gebbie believes there is still “real appetite for building immersive spatial computing experiences for all sorts of application. There’s already lots of momentum behind this vision and, despite a lull in the coming years, we expect the metaverse bandwagon to keep rolling on”.

The saga over the future of Telecom Italia (TIM) seems to never cease. Reuters has reported that the Italian operator has been in discussions with infrastructure investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) for a potential investment into TIM’s fixed access network. No other details were provided, but the telco’s CEO Pietro Labriola has previously said that the company needs to sell assets to reduce its debt. These developments follow a lengthy deliberation over the fate of TIM’s fixed access unit, FiberCop. A deal that would see the division combined with rival wholesale fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) player Open Fiber, which as the support of Italian state lender CDP, has been put on hold while the recently formed Italian government figures out what to do with the national operator.

- The staff, TelecomTV​​​​​​​

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