What’s up with… Euro regulations, Akamai, Vodafone

  • EU regulators set to approve fair share contributions, according to reports 
  • Akamai is adding cloud computing capabilities to its global network 
  • Vodafone names e& CEO Hatem Dowidar as a new board member

In today’s industry news roundup: European Union regulators might be about to light the fair share fuse, according to a Reuters report; global content delivery giant Akamai has its sights set on the delivery of ‘planetary’ cloud services; the CEO of e& is about to join the Vodafone board; and much more! 

Big news for the top telco giants in Europe… The European Commission is reportedly considering making it compulsory for big tech firms to help fund 5G rollouts, in a significant step to support the likes of Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica and Telecom Italia in the so-called fair share debate. According to a document obtained by Reuters, the commission may contemplate broadening the scope and objectives of the current telecom regulatory framework to “ensure a level playing field and equivalent rights and obligations for all actors and end users of digital networks”. This is something that most of the biggest European operators have repeatedly called for, arguing that tech giants, such as Alphabet’s Google, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Meta and Microsoft, account for more than half of all data traffic, so should contribute financially to network upgrades and maintenance. There might be more good news for telcos, as the document reportedly suggests that merger rules could also be loosened. It is further said that a paper that is to be presented on 21 February by the EU’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, identifies some 50 mobile operators and more than 100 fixed operators in the European Union (EU), which could suggest the market is too fragmented. The document, seen by the news agency, argues that this “could impact the ability of operators to reach the scale needed to invest in the networks of the future, in particular in view of cross-border services”, and questions whether cross-border consolidation or forms of cooperation upstream could enable operators to “acquire sufficient scale, without compromising downstream competition”.

Global content delivery network giant Akamai, which runs a distributed network with more than 4,100 points of presence worldwide, has unveiled plans to “embed cloud computing capabilities into its massive edge network,” the company has announced. The cloud infrastructure platform, dubbed Generalised Edge Compute (Gecko), “advances Akamai’s strategy to be the cloud computing platform for companies that want to deliver better experiences by running workloads closer to users, devices, and sources of data,” the company stated in this announcement. It added that the move is part of its “multi-year strategy to become a key platform in enterprise multicloud environments.” Akamai has already trialled the platform with some enterprise customers and believes it will be useful in sectors such as immersive retail, spatial computing, data analytics, and consumer and industrial IoT. Dr. Tom Leighton, Akamai co-founder and CEO, clearly swallowed a hype pill before he commented on his company’s move. “Gecko is the most exciting thing to happen to the cloud in a decade,” he stated. “It’s the next phase of the roadmap toward a more connected cloud we laid out when we acquired Linode to add cost-effective, cloud-native computing capabilities to our portfolio. We began delivering on that roadmap with the launch of Akamai Connected Cloud and the rapid rollout of new core computing regions around the world. With Gecko, we’re furthering that vision by combining the computing power of our cloud platform with the proximity and efficiency of the edge, to put workloads closer to users than any other cloud provider. When we say we operate at planetary scale, this is what we mean,” he added. Leighton clearly doesn’t have any confidence issues.  

The CEO of Middle Eastern tech giant e&, Hatem Dowidar, is to join Vodafone’s board as a non-executive director, with effect from 19 February 2024. The appointment is one of the terms agreed as part of the strategic relationship unveiled by the pair in May 2023, and has now been confirmed after e& received the necessary regulatory approvals, according to Vodafone. This isn’t Dowidar’s first position at Vodafone; he has previously held leadership roles at the telco group, including heading up the operator’s units in Egypt and Malta. Confirmation of him becoming a board member comes shortly after the UK government raised concerns over e&’s 14.6% stake in Vodafone and set up a committee to examine “sensitive work that Vodafone and its group perform which has an impact on or is in respect of the national security of the United Kingdom.”

UK communications service provider TalkTalk has confirmed plans to split its operations into separate entities from 1 March, and unveiled that it has entered exclusive talks with a global financial institution to plough a “significant investment of new equity” into its wholesale business, which is also known as PlatformX Communications (PXC). That suggests the recent speculation that Macquarie is in line to acquire a significant minority stake in TalkTalk’s B2B Wholesale Platform unit might be accurate. In a press release, the company announced that PXC, as well as its residential broadband customer business called TalkTalk Consumer, will trade independently from 1 March 2024. Under a long-term exclusive wholesale agreement, TalkTalk Consumer will have access to the PXC network. Highlighting “good progress” in terms of its plans to refinance its operations, TalkTalk noted that the PXC equity investment offer, coming from an undisclosed financial institution, is subject to due diligence checks, as well as internal and regulatory approvals, and is made on the basis that TalkTalk Consumer is separated out of the existing group structure. TalkTalk is also working with the institution to raise new debt from third-party lenders. “A debt-raise process on the TalkTalk Consumer business is also ongoing,” the company noted, adding that it intends to use the total proceeds from the investment and debt facilities to refinance its existing debt in full. The UK broadband service provider further noted that it also may negotiate an extension of its debt maturities.

Liberty Global has joined the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO), becoming the latest addition to the group that has been actively pressuring the European Commission on a number of key areas for telcos, including looser rules for consolidation, fair contribution towards network deployments by leading tech companies, and  amending the Gigabit Infrastructure Act (GIA), among others. With the move, the association brings in a new voice to its lobbying power, which also includes major telcos such as A1, BT, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Telenor. According to Liberty Global’s CEO, Mike Fries, this is “the time to unite the industry”, as European telecoms “has been structurally disadvantaged for decades by fragmentation and lack of scale.” He added: “We have always believed in market consolidation as a crucial prerequisite for growth and innovation in a global market. Now more than ever, we also want to contribute to the strengthening and unification of fragmented views on public policy in our industry.” Liberty Global is the owner (fully or via joint ventures) of many operators across Europe: Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) in the UK, Sunrise in Switzerland, VodafoneZiggo in the Netherlands, Telenet in Belgium, Virgin Media in Ireland and UPC Slovakia. The telco group serves a total of 85 million fixed and mobile connections. With this addition, ETNO’s operator member count has risen to 32 in total. Read more.

Australian operator Telstra has achieved “a new global record” 5G uplink speed of 340 Mbit/s, in collaboration with Ericsson and Qualcomm. The company estimates this speed to be 100 times faster than the typical 3G uplink speed, and is set and believes it will enable “faster and more reliable data uploads” on Telstra customers’ 5G standalone (SA) devices. To do so, Telstra combined its mid-band spectrum holdings to create “a massive 140MHz channel” for sending data from the device to the network, in addition to a 240MHz channel for receiving data from the 5G SA network to the device. The telco said this helped it deliver up to 3.6 Gbit/s in downlink speed and an uplink speed of 340 Mbit/s – “the fastest in the world” using spectrum under 6 GHz. This new technology, according to Telstra, can also be used to support future differentiated services, such as network slicing, thanks to features in the base station that can prioritise different types of data and applications. Find out more.

Virtual routing system specialist DriveNets has added European operator Digi to its list of telco customers. The vendor’s network cloud technology has “been deployed and is carrying significant customer traffic on a commercial network in Romania, with expanded coverage planned to other countries as well,” noted DriveNets, which already has its technology deployed by major network operators, such as AT&T and KDDI

- The staff, TelecomTV

Email Newsletters

Sign up to receive TelecomTV's top news and videos, plus exclusive subscriber-only content direct to your inbox.