What’s up with... Reliance & T-Mobile Netherlands, smartphones in the EU, Bezeq

  • Reliance lines up Dutch deal
  • EU wants smartphone longevity
  • Bezeq’s power play

Talk of potential European expansion for India’s Reliance and some bad news from Europe for smartphone vendors lead today’s news charge.  

Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) is set to offer $5.7 billion for a controlling stake in T-Mobile Netherlands, according to media reports in India. According to Mint, the offer is set to be made during the next month and, if successful, would give the Indian company a European foothold for its telecoms powerhouse Reliance Jio, which is by far India’s largest service providerDeutsche Telekom has been looking to offload its 75% stake in the Dutch operator, which has about 6.9 million mobile customers, for some time: Tele2 owns the other 25%. 

One of the most frequent complaints from smartphone users is that increasingly expensive handsets don’t last as long as their over-pricing ought to warrant. Rapidly declining battery life is a major gripe as is the short length of time devices are supported in terms of software updates, spare parts and the provision of security patches. Appeals to remedy matters have generally fallen on the selectively deaf ears of some of the world’s biggest manufacturers (you know who you are, and so do we) so it’s good to be able to report that the German federal government is pushing the European Union (EU) to mandate that all manufacturers making phones in the EU or exporting to it must provide a minimum of seven years of security and other software updates and spare parts availability from the date a handset is purchased. Currently, the European Commission (EC) is proposing a five-year deal. Apple vendors usually provide software and security updates on Apple handsets for five years while Samsung mandates four years. However, those selling Android phones typically provide only three years (and sometimes only two years) of vital updates. The EU wants to have the five-year plan in place for 2023 but with Germany rocking the boat and other countries likely to follow it may yet change tack and push for the full seven years demanded, especially in light of European public attitudes to, and legislation on, sustainability and green issues. As expected, manufacturers are howling in confected outrage. The majority want to provide security patches for no more than a three-year maximum and to limit the spare parts they are prepared to keep in stock to screens and batteries only. According to them, components such as sophisticated smartphone cameras and speakers are so reliable that they’ll last a decade anyway. Hmm. Really?

Here's a development that’s likely to become a trend... Israeli operator Bezeq has been granted a license to become an electricity supplier, reports Globes. Communication service providers (CSPs) are searching for ways to expand their businesses and make use of their extensive customer bases – selling other products and services, such as utility services, is one potential option, and one that is also being explored by Telstra in Australia.   

The decision by Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to step down has prompted investors to buy shares in the country’s telcos such as NTT and KDDI and boosted the collective value of the country’s operators by about ¥1.3 trillion ($12 billion), reports The Japan Times. One of Suga’s key priorities was the reduction of mobile phone bills, while the general feeling is that Suga’s replacement would not inherit that particular policy. Suga’s telco tariff stance caused panic in the industry last year.  

Ericsson’s CEO Borje Ekholm is determined to regain 5G market share in China following the vendor’s recent contract award disappointments, reports Reuters. In July, Ekholm warned investors that the company’s business in China was set to nosedive due to geopolitical tensions: Only days later Ericsson was handed only 2% of China Mobile’s latest 5G contracts compared with its previous 11% share. (See Ericsson takes a hit in China Mobile’s latest 5G contract awards… and Nokia gets a slice of the pie.)

The telecoms industry – along with other sectors such as the auto industry – is facing severe chip shortages due to a perfect storm of Covid, weather events, ships getting jammed in canals, and geopolitical rumblings. As Martyn Warwick documented last week, this is a situation that could last into 2023. But according to STL Partners, the problem is being exacerbated by the industry’s high-tech version of toilet paper syndrome: Purchasers appear to be stockpiling to ensure they don’t run out of chips and maybe, just maybe, are aiming to disrupt the competition at the same time. STL says there’s evidence that stockpiling is contributing to lengthening chip delivery schedules and the average gap between ordering your chips and their eventual arrival is still growing, with evidence that over-ordering is stoking the fire. 

The idea that TIM’s fixed access unit and wholesale rival Open Fiber could be merged to form one major Italian broadband infrastructure company has not, as some might think, been completely abandoned, TIM’s CEO Luigi Gubitosi stated over the weekend.  

A team of BT boffins is heading to the French city of Bordeaux for ECOC 2021, this year’s in-person European optical sector get-together, to share some very particular technology advances, in particular “a new milestone in the development of quantum-secure communications, as [BT] has conducted the world’s first trial of Quantum Key Distribution over hollow core fibre.” BT’s Head of Optical Network Research, Professor Andrew Lord, will be sharing the operator’s insights. BT will also give a presentation with Lumenisity and Mavenir focused on how the low latency enabled by hollow core fibre “can be used to increase the physical distance on an eCPRI based Radio Access Network (RAN) fronthaul link,” with BT having taken the fronthaul link distance on a commercial Open RAN system to 43 km. BT first outlined its work with Lumenisity and Mavenir in June. ECOC takes place over three days, 13-15 September. 

Vodafone UK has initiated its “new flexible approach to work” dubbed ‘future ready,’ explains CEO Ahmed Essam in this blog.

When number portability makes it too easy: Indian regulator, the TRAI, is going to prevent rival mobile operators from offering ‘discriminatory’ tariffs to lure customers to switch networks via the country’s mobile number portability (MNP) arrangement. The regulator considers that inducements to flip networks with specific tariff offers violates the country’s current regulations which outlaw the offering of a differential tariff to subscribers porting from the network of another service provider: The motive for such inducements, it says, is obviously to induce churn from the competitors’ network without making the offer available to its own customers or to the customers of other rival networks, and that is clearly discriminatory. The kerfuffle is the result of a life and death struggle between the two healthy(ish) networks (Jio and Airtel) and Vodafone Idea, which lost 12.3 million customers in the last quarter, according to this article in India Today.

In the UK, Green ISP, a popular broadband company headquartered in the trendy but, in these in strange days, oft-flooded Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, has announced that it will no longer be selling Openreach’s G.fast-enabled “ultrafast broadband” service. Openreach is BT’s semi-detached wholesale arm and G.fast is a fibre-hybrid DSL standard for local loops of less than 500 metres. Performance “targets” are in the very wide range of between 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s, “depending on loop length.” The reality is that top of the range speeds are only possible in very short loops (usually as short as 100 to 300 metres from a kerbside cabinet) which has adversely affected take up of G.fast services. With BT now focusing on FTTP, Openreach is making minimal attempts to sell the product and it seems to be on its last legs. Launched to considerable fanfare in late November 2018, BT announced that the technology would quickly be rolled-out to 10 million business and domestic premises by 31 March, 2020. That didn’t happen. As FTTP rose to the top of the agenda Openreach back-pedalled on G.fast and fewer than 2.4 million premises have been reached. Last week, Zen Internet also stopped selling G.fast but various other ISPs, including BT, Sky Broadband and TalkTalk, continue to advertise the technology, although for how much longer remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, Openreach is demonstrating how to make friends and influence people. Post Brexit, and with another Scottish independence referendum lurking just below the horizon, English Members of Parliament frequently get hot and bothered about the “West Lothian Question” which asks why Scottish, Welsh or indeed Northern Irish MPs representing three out of the four countries that comprise the dis-United Kingdom should, on issues pertaining solely to England, have the same right to have vote at Westminster as English MPs given that many policy areas are devolved to national parliaments and assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In the “popular press” the shorthand for this thorny issue is usually “English votes for English laws”. Meanwhile, in far-away East Lothian, which lies south of the Firth of Forth in the eastern central Lowlands of Scotland, bordering Edinburgh to the west, Midlothian to the south-west and the Scottish Borders to the south, the West Barns Community Council is up in arms about Openreach, the wholesale access network arm of incumbent national telco BT, for not informing it before “plonking” a metal pole on a playing field adjacent to West Barns Primary School, East Lothian. The structure appeared overnight. To add insult to injury, a note was reportedly taped to it stating it is made of wood, whereas it is, in fact, heavy metal, man. The Council secretary, Jacquie Bell told the local media, "There was no warning of the pole coming or what it is for. A notice describes it as a wooden pole which it most definitely is not." In a statement, Openreach writes, “We’re building a new, ultrafast broadband network in Dunbar to give local people access to gigabit-capable broadband. Network providers have a right to install telecoms infrastructure on public land, and Openreach follows a statutory process. There is no requirement to inform residents in advance, but we give local authorities 28 days’ notice, and liaise with them if they raise any concerns. We strive to select and site our infrastructure sensitively. We are investigating to find out what’s happened in this case." Meanwhile, the owner of the playing field, East Lothian Council, says it is ascertaining if the placing and positioning of the mast is in accordance with local bylaws. It has announced, “We are investigating to establish whether or not the structure constitutes a breach of planning control."

- The staff, TelecomTV

Email Newsletters

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