What’s up with… Iliad & Tele2, MWC24, network APIs

  • Iliad expands European presence with a stake in Tele2
  • MWC24 gets off to a busy start 
  • The network API rollercoaster gathers speed

In today’s industry news roundup: Tele2’s share price rockets at news Iliad Group is to acquire a 19.8% stake; AI, green networks, APIs and 5G are all in the spotlight at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona; Germany’s three main mobile operators have jointly launched a network API for the developer community, with more to follow; and much more! 

Iliad Group has agreed to acquire a 19.8% stake in Tele2 for approximately 13bn Swedish kronor (€1.16bn). The deal has been made possible through an agreement between Freya Investissement, jointly owned by Iliad and investment firm NJJ Holding (an M&A vehicle run by Iliad’s founder Xavier Niel), and investment company Kinnevik (which owned 19,77% of Tele2’s capital by 27 December 2023). “With its expertise and know-how in managing telecom assets, the acquisition of this strategic stake will offer the Iliad Group, through Freya, an opportunity to further Tele2’s growth and to collaborate with Tele2’s management team on innovation, convergence, and investments in next-generation networks,” Iliad noted in a statement announcing the move. The transaction, which will see Iliad invest up to €500m and NJJ Holding and Freyais provide €650m, is expected to close by the third quarter of 2024 at the latest, on condition that it obtains antitrust approval. “The Iliad Group and the Tele2 Group have a lot in common. We both believe in the power of innovation and the importance of an entrepreneurial mindset. Our business sector in Europe is highly demanding. So, we have a great deal of respect for what Tele2’s shareholders, management and teams have achieved, and we’re delighted that Kinnevik has chosen Freya as Tele2’s new reference shareholder,” said Thomas Reynaud, director of Freya and CEO of the Iliad Group. With this move, Iliad will expand its European presence, which currently includes France, Italy and Poland, to the Nordic and the Baltic regions. Tele2 currently has operations in Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The news lit a fire under Tele2’s share price on Monday morning as it jumped by almost 9% to 90.9 Swedish kronor on the Stockholm exchange. 

MWC24 has opened its doors at the Fira in Barcelona, with 95,000 attendees expected to hit the vast show floor over the next four days. The major theme coursing through the show’s veins is going to be artificial intelligence (AI), but there will be plenty other major industry developments discussed and displayed, from green network technology to telco-as-a-platform/network API capabilities and, of course, anything and everything to do with 5G. Hundreds of companies are going to be making announcements during the next few days, and one of the first out of the traps on Monday morning was ServiceNow… 

Cloud-based digital workflow giant ServiceNow and partner Nvidia have unveiled a telco‑specific generative AI (GenAI) solution to “elevate service experiences,” the company announced in this press release. Now Assist for telecommunications service management (TSM), which offers customer care and service assurance capabilities, is built on ServiceNow’s Now Platform and “uses Nvidia AI to help boost agent productivity, speed time to resolution, and enhance customer experiences,” according to the company. “GenAI is a game‑changer for telcos looking to boost productivity, improve customer experiences, and drive cost savings with its ability to learn and improve with each use,” noted Rohit Batra, general manager and vice president for telecom, media, and tech at ServiceNow. “Together, ServiceNow and Nvidia will help telcos realise unprecedented business value and impact, fast. This is just the beginning of a large‑scale transformation for the industry, and we’re excited to be at the forefront,” he added. ServiceNow and Nvidia, which looks like being the company to watch at this year’s MWC, announced their GenAI-focused partnership in May last year. 

In addition, ServiceNow has announced the acquisition, for an undisclosed sum, of the NetACE network management and automation software stack from Israeli vendor Atrinet “to accelerate business transformation” for telcos. Once integrated into the ServiceNow platform, Atrinet’s NetACE technology “will enable comprehensive, end‑to‑end network lifecycle management for telcos on a single, AI‑first digital workflow platform,” noted ServiceNow in this announcement. The company added: “Telcos often lack the tools and technology needed to drive efficiency in managing their network, and frequently rely on manual processes. The addition of Atrinet’s NetACE network discovery and activation capabilities to the Now platform will address these challenges by delivering stronger connectivity for telco workflows and greater alignment across their vast networks – from initial sales to activating and assuring a service. These new capabilities accelerate ServiceNow’s roadmap for telcos supporting ServiceNow’s Telecom Network Inventory and Order Management for Telecom products, with a significant step toward providing closed-loop automation for telecommunications networks.” ServiceNow and Atrinet have been partners since May 2021.

The GSMA’s Open Gateway initiative, launched a year ago to help develop a common way for telcos to expose and build new business opportunities from their network APIs, is proving increasingly popular with network operators and gaining momentum. According to the industry body, which also runs the MWC event in Barcelona, 47 mobile operator groups, representing 239 mobile networks and 65% of cellular connections around the world, have now signed up to the initiative. Of those companies, more than 40 mobile operator networks have now made a combined total of 94 APIs commercially available to enterprise developers in 21 markets around the world, such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Brazil, South Africa, Spain and now Germany, where Deutsche Telekom, O2 Telefónica and Vodafone have announced the “commercial launch of a new service designed to help app developers and enterprises tackle online fraud and protect the digital identities of mobile customers,” according to the GSMA. The three operators are working with Vonage, part of Ericsson, to make an initial API, called Number Verify,  available to enterprise developers, while an additional API, SIM Swap, is to be launched soon, according to Deutsche Telekom. Vonage, for its part, is already working with Vinted, an international online consumer-to-consumer (C2C) marketplace dedicated to second-hand fashion, to integrate the new APIs. Peter Arbitter, senior VP for magenta API capability exposure (MACE) at Deutsche Telekom, noted: “5G network APIs represent an important new business area for telco operators. The GSMA Open Gateway initiative helps to broaden the reach of our offerings through aggregation in key markets for our customers, while maintaining a consistent user experience.” The German operators are working on additional APIs and collaborating with Siemens Energy, which is testing quality-on-demand APIs with the trio. Read more.  

Telstra has unveiled a mobility engine that analyses 5G slicing traffic “every second” to check whether a customer has received the performance they have been promised. Claiming the solution as a world-first, the Australian operator noted that if the quality provided does not meet performance expectations, customers are not being charged for the service. The solution uses slice templates to “uniquely tailor a slice to a customer use case and specific performance requirements, such as minimum and maximum speed, security and latency,” the company noted in its statement unveiling the move, adding that the “proof-of-value” service will be marketed this year. “What’s groundbreaking about this development is that it allows us to commit to a minimum performance level for a customer, then measure and report on the slice performance to know if the slice is performing as designed,” explained Shailin Sehgal, Telstra executive for network applications and cloud. He said there are a variety of ways the 5G slice technology can be used, such as delivering enhanced performance for transport networks, construction sites and public safety technology, such as video surveillance. The first customer to have tested the new solution is Australian construction company Hindmarsh, which said it has seen improved reliability, faster access to business-critical systems, and easier access to productivity tools, such as video conferencing. Telstra is deploying Casa Systems’ Realtime Fastlane Accelerator (RFA) technology and User Equipment Route Selection Policy (URSP) 5G standard in the solution, both of which are used to “dynamically route different types of traffic to different slices based on a network template.” The telco also worked with Ericsson on a solution to operationalise network slicing and design experiences.

Verizon has teamed up with KDDI to deliver “cutting-edge connected car capabilities” to the electric vehicle (EV) fleet of Afeela, a Japan-based joint venture automotive company formed by Sony and Honda. According to the US operator, the partnership will enable the brand’s first mass-production electric vehicle in the US to sport cellular connectivity and “advanced mobility features”, using Verizon’s 5G and 4G LTE networks, as well as KDDI’s Global Communications Platform designed for automakers. The model is scheduled for launch in 2025, with deliveries in North America starting in the first half of 2026. Read more.

Japanese telco NTT Docomo is to conduct Open RAN field trials together with Qatari peer Ooredoo, Philippine telco Smart Communications and Singaporean operator StarHub. The partnership with Ooredoo will focus on a verification test that stimulates the in-house operation of a commercial Open RAN. This trial will also involve Fujitsu’s base station software (centralised unit/distributed unit), Wind River’s cloud infrastructure, Nvidia’s accelerator and Dell Technologies’ compute infrastructure. The partnership between Smart and NTT Docomo will see the two players conduct an Open RAN trial, which will build on a test that the Philippines-based telco conducted in January 2023 using Docomo’s Orex solutions. As for the StarHub-NTT Docomo partnership, the two telcos will conduct a field test, which is set to happen after an initial Open RAN verification test. According to the Japanese operator, these trials aim to speed up the global adoption of mobile networks built on Open RAN architecture. Read more.

Ericsson is banging the Open RAN drum again as part of its news splurge at MWC24. The giant Swedish vendor announced that the imminent deployment of its Cloud RAN technology by O2 Telefónica in Germany is the start of the operator’s Open RAN “journey” as it “paves the way for more open and programmable network functionalities.” In addition, the vendor announced that it is doubling down on “Open RAN and AI innovation” with Intel at their shared Tech Hub in Santa Clara, California. The vendor also made Cloud RAN announcements with US telco giant AT&T, which is deploying the technology in its commercial network, and e& UAE, which has completed a trial in line with its “increased interest in virtualisation and cloud-native technologies for 5G network evolution.” 

- The staff, TelecomTV

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