What’s up with… MásOrange, Iliad & Tele2, Vodafone & Nokia

  • MásOrange rules out enforced job cuts
  • Iliad’s CEO set to become Tele2’s chairman
  • Vodafone and Nokia claim home broadband latency breakthrough

In today’s industry news roundup: The CEO of the new Spanish operator formed by the merger of MásMóvil and Orange Spain has ruled out enforced redundancies; Iliad’s CEO Thomas Reynaud is on course to become the new chairman at Tele2; Vodafone and Nokia have some good news for gamers; and more!

Meinrad Spenger, the CEO of what is now Spain’s largest telco by customer numbers following the recent merger of Orange Spain and MásMóvil, announced during a mass staff meeting in Madrid earlier this week that, as expected, the name of the company is MásOrange and that the logo will be +O (see above). Spenger also told staff that the new management will not be making any enforced redundancies as it combines the operations of the two companies, Expansión has reported. That doesn’t mean that the headcount at the new operator, which currently stands at 8,500, won’t be reduced as it aims to hit its target of reducing its annual operating expenditure by €500m: Instead, that process is expected to happen through other corporate programmes such as early retirement schemes. Spenger also unveiled his senior management team, reported El Economista: It comprises four executives from MásMóvil – head of operations Germán López, director of technology Miguel Santos and head of human resources Mónica Allés, as well as Spenger – and another four from Orange Spain – finance director Ludovic Pech, general director of networks Mónica Sala, director of strategy and wholesale Julio Gómez, and director of customer and product Diego Martínez. The broader management team comprises 20 executives (11 from MásMóvil and nine from Orange Spain). Those announcements were followed by an official corporate announcement (in Spanish) on 3 April that highlighted the scale of the operator, which with more than 30 million mobile connections, more than 7 million fixed broadband subscribers and 2.3 million pay-TV customers, is the largest in Spain in terms of customer base with market share of more than 40% in both mobile and fixed line communications. And with annual revenues of more than €7.4bn, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of more than €2.6bn and a market value greater than €18.6bn, it claims to be one of the 20 largest companies in Spain. It plans to invest more than €4bn during the next three years, particularly in the further expansion of its 5G and fibre access broadband networks, to achieve its ambition of becoming “the leading company in customer satisfaction, talent and positive impact” in the whole of Europe as well as in its domestic market and has identified “revenue, integration, investment, innovation and positive impact” as its five operational priorities. The MásOrange “industrial plan demonstrates our commitment to investing in Spain in the development of new telecommunications infrastructure at the service of the Spanish market and consumers,” noted Spenger. “MásOrange is a reliable partner for all our clients, including companies and public administrations. We are going to invest and innovate more to offer the highest quality service in a sustainable way,” he added.

Iliad Group’s CEO Thomas Raynaud is set to become the chairman of Tele2, the Swedish operator has revealed in an announcement about the planned composition of its new board, which is also set to feature additional Iliad Group executives. The move is the latest step by Iliad’s owner Xavier Niel to grow his influence across the European telecom sector and further expand his empire: Earlier this year, Iliad agreed to acquire a 19.8% stake in Tele2 for approximately 13bn Swedish kronor (€1.12bn) from investment company Kinnevik. The deal was struck by Freya Investissement, jointly owned by Iliad and investment firm NJJ Holding (an M&A vehicle run by Iliad’s founder Xavier Niel) and gave Freya not only a 19.8% equity stake but almost 30% of the voting rights in Tele2. Now, ahead of its annual general meeting on 15 May, Tele2 has announced a number of board level proposals, including that of Raynaud as chairman, replacing Andrew Barron (who is not standing for re-election). In addition to Raynaud, Iliad’s deputy CEO Aude Durand, and Jean-Marc Harion, currently the CEO of Play and UPC Polska (Iliad’s operations in Poland), have also been nominated to the Tele2 board. Anna Stenberg, chair of Tele2’s nomination committee, noted: “Through Kinnevik’s transaction with Freya, Tele2 gains a new lead shareholder in the combination of iliad and NJJ, a challenger brand that in ever-changing times has a longstanding, successful track record in the European telecoms sector, and we wish Tele2 and its shareholders all well for the future. In his statement, Raynaud praised Barron’s achievements and added: “I am honoured to have been proposed to become Tele2’s next chairman and, subject to the shareholders’ vote, I would be delighted to accept and carry on the group’s successful transformation. Freya and Iliad are committed long-term shareholders. As a team we are excited to contribute to this new phase in the history of Tele2, drawing on our deep telecoms experience and shared entrepreneurial mindset, working closely with the Board of the Company, the CEO, Kjell Johnsen, and the management team in the interest of all stakeholders.” Iliad, which has its own operations in France, Italy and Poland, recently reported a 10.4% year-on-year increase in full year revenues to €9.24bn for 2023, expects to top the €10bn annual sales target this year, and noted that it now has almost 50 million customers across its three main markets.

Vodafone is the latest telco to extol the virtues of L4S (low latency, low loss and scalable), a technology backed by internet standards body the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), that “tackles queuing delays, which are a significant source of peak latency on the internet and the scourge of most serious gamers.” Vodafone has completed a test at its lab in Newbury, UK, in partnership with Nokia Bell Labs that used a “replica fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) link serving a standard laptop over a busy Wi-Fi broadband connection (simulating the worst-case peak load).” The partners were “able to reduce the response times, known as latency, when accessing an Internet site from 550 milliseconds (0.55 seconds) to just 12 milliseconds (0.012 seconds) whilst maintaining fast speeds. The latency reduced to only 1.05 milliseconds (0.00105 seconds) when an ethernet cable was used in place of Wi-Fi,” noted Vodafone in this announcement. Gavin Young, head of Vodafone’s fixed access centre of excellence, stated: “As a leading broadband provider, Vodafone aims to give customers a faster, more responsive, and reliable service unhindered by lag even during peak hours. L4S is an exciting technology with huge potential to achieve this goal, as well as deliver a more interactive and tactile internet experience for our customers.” The operator noted that while its test was conducted using a fibre connection that was part of a passive optical network (PON), L4S can be used “over any access connection, mobile or fixed” and “could be applied to any latency-sensitive application such as remote surgery, connected autonomous vehicles and smart factories underpinning the industrial internet.” Earlier this year, giant US operator Verizon trialled L4S technology with Ericsson to explore ways to make better use of its 5G network and enhance its appeal to customers with “more robust solutions”, such as interactive video, remote control of industrial processes, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) – see Verizon targets next wave of time-critical 5G apps with L4S.

Singtel has once again reiterated that there is no impending deal to sell Optus, its Australian operation that has been facing numerous challenges in the past few months (including a massive outage and the following departure of prominent figures including its CEO and its managing director of networks). According to Bloomberg, Singtel has dismissed rumours of an impending divestment deal for the subsidiary in reaction to media speculation suggesting that private equity company Brookfield had been discussing a deal to acquire a 20% stake in Optus but that an agreement could not be reached on pricing and other terms. Following multiple reports of failed negotiations, Singtel’s share price fell by 4.3% before the telco requested a trading halt. Last month, it was reported that Brookfield was looking to buy Optus for AUS$16bn (US$10.6bn) but Singtel was quick to dismiss the information. At the time, it warned shareholders to be vigilant of any media reports relating to Optus ahead of any definitive announcements.

Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) Business has been making progress with its anonymised and aggregated data service, O2 Motion: Its ability to collect mobility data is to be used by the UK government for insights into population dynamics, travel patterns and other movement trends. Having been selected as a strategic partner of UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), VMO2’s enterprise arm will provide mobile network insights that utilise anonymised and aggregated data. The telco explained in a statement that these insights will be made available on the Integrated Data Service (IDS), a cloud-based cross-government data sharing service delivered by ONS, in an effort to “enable faster and more efficient decision-making across key policy areas”. According to VMO2, its mobility findings will help the government save costs, eliminate the need for additional data agreements and address “complex societal challenges” facing public health, regional growth, climate change, jobs and skills. Additionally, O2 Motion data will be used for a series of future publications covering topics such as small area population estimates that will be publicly available. Last year, Mónica Mercado Páez, head of data and AI for VMO2 Business, told TelecomTV that the data platform by VMO2 Business is also being used in other verticals across the UK, including retailers, research institutions, media agencies, commercial property companies and the finance sector – see How VMO2 uses its mobile network to monetise user data.

Vodafone is ramping up activities at its Málaga, Spain-based digital skills hub with the formation of a new cybersecurity group that will serve multiple European operations and take the number of staff at the hub to 1,000, according to El Economista. The new group, which will also develop private mobile network solutions, will be developed in partnership with Zegona Communications, which is in the process of acquiring Vodafone Spain for €5bn.

Telia has completed the sale of its operations and network assets in Denmark to energy and broadband services group Norlys. The enterprise value of the deal was 6.25bn Danish kroner (DKK) (currently equal to approximately $904m) on a cash and debt-free basis. “Telia intends to use the transaction proceeds for deleveraging purposes”, the operator noted. It agreed to sell its Danish business a year ago to focus on markets where it believes it can secure and defend leading market positions.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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