What’s up with… Gigaclear, Nokia, Vivendi and Telecom Italia

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Dec 18, 2023

Source: Gigaclear

Source: Gigaclear

  • UK fibre broadband altnet raises £1.5bn
  • Nokia boasts quantum security capabilities with Greek PoC
  • Vivendi sues Telecom Italia over NetCo deal

In today’s industry news roundup: UK fibre broadband provider Gigaclear secures £1.5bn to extend its reach from 500,000 premises to 1 million; Nokia generates and distributes quantum-safe keys for encrypted optical services; Vivendi mounts legal challenge to TIM’s NetCo deal with KKR; and more!

UK fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) altnet Gigaclear, which provides fibre broadband lines to homes and businesses in rural areas, has secured a £1.5bn debt facility to fund further expansion. The operator, which is majority owned by infrastructure equity firm Infracapital and has Equitix and Railpen as shareholders, has already built a network that reaches more than 500,000 premises across the UK, and plans to extend its network to cover more than 1 million rural premises by 2027. The available capital comprises a £1bn facility from a consortium of banks and £500m in additional, but as yet uncommitted, funds. “By securing this debt funding, we’ve shown that despite high levels of volatility in the sector there remains an appetite among lenders to support fibre operators that can demonstrate a robust business model,” stated Gigaclear CEO Gareth Williams. “Not only is it an endorsement of Gigaclear’s mission to take its full fibre broadband to underserved, rural communities across England but it is also [a] reflection of the great things being achieved by the team at Gigaclear. Gigaclear’s resolve to reach more than one million premises by 2027 is supported by this announcement, which is nothing less than a vote of confidence in us successfully achieving our goal.”   

Nokia has completed a proof of concept (PoC) of quantum-safe networks in a “complex optical network ring topology” in three locations in Greece, in collaboration with HellasQCI, the Greek National Quantum Communication Infrastructure Consortium. It included a demonstration of hybrid-key generation using both classic and quantum physics in order to generate and distribute quantum-safe keys for encrypted optical services. The Finnish vendor explained that the PoC aimed to deliver a quantum-safe connectivity infrastructure by trialling use cases with HellasQCI, which includes members from government, research and education, defence, law enforcement and private sector critical infrastructure owners. According to Nokia, the “positive potential” of quantum computing is “enormous”, but it pointed out that as such developments come with numerous security challenges, there is “an urgent need to ensure networks are ready for quantum attacks” with the help of consortiums like HellasQCI. Find out more.

When Telecom Italia (TIM) announced its €18.8bn deal to sell its fixed access network assets unit (NetCo) to private equity firm KKR, the Italian national operator’s single largest shareholder, French media giant Vivendi, branded the deal as “unlawful” and said it would “use any legal means at its disposal to challenge this decision and protect its rights and those of all shareholders.” Well it has been good to its word, as Telecom Italia says in this press release that it has “received notification of an ordinary writ of summons from Vivendi, challenging the legitimacy of the Board resolution passed by the company on 5 November, through which the sale of the so-called NetCo was approved.” But Telecom Italia claims Vivendi didn’t move to halt the planned sale proceedings prior to the closing of the deal with KKR and thus the “activities envisaged in the agreements with KKR aimed at the closing of the transaction will therefore continue as planned, without delay or interruption.” This battle has a long way to go…

India’s new telecom bill has reportedly been put before the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s Parliament, in an effort to update the country’s comms rules and replace the 138-year-old Indian Telegraph Act that governs the telecom sector. According to multiple local media outlets, the new act, called the Telecommunications Bill, will allow the government to manage, suspend or prohibit the use of certain kit that is deemed to pose a national security risk. The new legislation will require telecoms equipment to come from “trusted sources only”, noted a report from the Economic Times (ET). Another proposal in the bill would see the country’s watchdog, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), be given the power to examine “predatory pricing” and take necessary action accordingly. Notably, over-the-top (OTT) players, such as messaging service providers WhatsApp and Telegram, have been removed from the definition of telecommunication services and will not be regulated under the new bill, the ET added.

While some of the scores of UK FTTP altnets that entered the sector in the past four years have already fallen by the wayside, Gigaclear looks to be in the running as a long-term player in the UK fibre broadband sector, as does CityFibre. The long-time wholesale access network challenger to BT’s Openreach division now passes 3.37 million premises with its fibre access lines, of which 3 million are “ready for service” by the company’s ISP customers, ISPreview has reported.  

Now the battle among the UK’s FTTP players is to get paying customers onto the networks and that battle looks to be even harder as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite chunks from UK household budgets. According to research house Point Topic, there were 28.72 million broadband connections across the UK at the end of October, down from just over 29 million a year earlier. Read more

The European Commission has assigned €762.7m in funding for digital projects in the region in 2024. Under the Digital Europe work programmes for next year, the lion’s share (€549m) will go towards deploying projects that use technologies such as data, cloud and “advanced digital skills”. More than half of this has been allocated to programmes presented in March 2023 that are now underway and cover the use of digital technologies, such as supercomputers, data, AI, cloud, cybersecurity and advanced digital skills. The multi-country projects also involve “strengthened efforts on AI, and additional actions related to key digital policies, such as virtual worlds, cloud, and quantum,” the commission stated. The EU’s updated budget will support the implementation of the AI Act and the establishment of a “European AI ecosystem” and will have a particular focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The remaining amount of €214m for 2024 will go towards boosting the bloc’s “collective resilience” against cyber threats. Its move is part of the Digital Decade programme, which has a “human-centric, sustainable vision for digital society” in Europe by 2030. “The Digital Europe Programme is key for pooling EU and national funding to achieve ambitious digital projects that no member state can do alone. It is crucial that Europe continues to support our digital decade targets with enhanced focus on digital skills, excellence in artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity,” noted Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s EVP for the programme A Europe Fit for the Digital Age. The 2024 budget announcement comes shortly after the region’s main regulatory and legislation bodies reached an agreement on the AI Act that aims to regulate the use of the technology – see Europe boasts ‘historic’ AI landmark.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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