What’s up with… Telecom Italia, Reliance Jio, Verizon

Pietro Labriola, CEO, TIM (Telecom Italia)

Pietro Labriola, CEO, TIM (Telecom Italia)

  • Telecom Italia CEO survives AGM
  • Reliance Jio now has 108 million 5G users
  • Verizon’s FWA growth continues in Q1

In today’s industry news roundup: Pietro Labriola withstands investor pressure and receives a three-year extension as CEO of Telecom Italia; Reliance Industries chair Mukesh Ambani claims Jio “truly leads the 5G transformation in India” with more than 100 million users; rapid growth in fixed wireless access (FWA) subscriptions drives revenue gains for Verizon in the US; and more!

Pietro Labriola, the CEO of Telecom Italia (TIM), has survived activist investor pressure that threatened his future at the helm of the Italian telco. During the company’s annual general meeting (AGM), Labriola was given a three-year mandate to continue serving as chief of the Italian telco after participating shareholders voted on the company’s board structure for the period between 2024 and the end of 2026. Commenting on the extension of his term, Labriola stated that the meeting marks “an important step forward in the plan we’re pursuing to put TIM back on a path of growth and development building on 22 months of improving performance and delivery of our financial objectives.” He added that in the next three years, the board will work towards achieving “sustainable growth” for TIM, “in the interests of all our stakeholders and with the aim of capitalising on our strengths”. Labriola stressed he would work “with even greater determination for the benefit of all shareholders who, showing a great sense of responsibility directly or indirectly, have provided continuity.” These comments appear to be in response to the fact that the AGM took place today in the absence of TIM’s largest shareholder, Vivendi (which is opposing the price of the telco’s fixed access network unit, NetCo, that is up for sale to KKR for up to €22bn and is challenging the deal in court). Prior to the meeting, Vivendi noted that it “does not wish to be associated with decisions concerning board appointments, as it considers that it is incumbent on the ongoing management and its supporters to sort out the delicate situation in which TIM finds itself”. In addition to extending Labriora’s term as CEO, TIM stated that corporate lawyer Alberta Figari will take over as chair from Salvatore Rossi, who had previously decided not to put himself forward for re-election. Minor shareholder Merlyn Partners, which had proposed alternative board members and a new CEO, was given two seats on the board, while Bluebell Capital Partners was given one seat.

India’s mobile market leader Reliance Jio has signed up 108 million 5G customers, according to Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Jio’s parent company Reliance Industries (RIL), in comments accompanying RIL’s financial results for the fiscal fourth quarter that ended in March. “Performance of the digital services segment has been boosted by accelerated expansion of subscriber base, supported by both mobility and fixed wireless services. With more than 108 million True 5G customers, Jio truly leads the 5G transformation in India. From upgrading the hitherto 2G users to smartphones, to leading the effort of producing AI-driven solutions, Jio has proved its capability in strengthening the nation’s digital infrastructure,” stated Ambani. Jio Platforms, the division of RIL that includes Jio, reported full financial year revenues of 1,285bn rupees ($15.43bn), up by 11.6%. According to the company, its Jio True 5G network now carries about 28% of Jio’s wireless data traffic, with all the 5G data traffic being carried on Jio’s “own 5G+4G combo core.” Jio ended February with more than 467 million mobile connections, giving it a market share of more than 40% for the first time. 

Verizon has reported further fixed wireless access (FWA) gains for the first quarter of the year, as the alternative broadband service makes inroads into the US broadband market. “Our fixed wireless subscriber base is continuing to grow rapidly,” said Verizon chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg commenting on the results. The company reported 203,000 fixed wireless net additions in the consumer segment, while Verizon Business reported 151,000 fixed wireless net additions in the period, marking its best quarterly result to date for this metric. Total FWA subscribers stood at 3.4 million at the end of the first quarter, out of a total of 11.1 million broadband subscribers. Revenue from fixed wireless was up $197m compared to the same period in 2023 to $452m. The growth in Verizon’s FWA subscriber base was also among the primary drivers for a 3.3% year-on-year increase in the operator’s total wireless service revenue to $19.5bn in the first quarter of 2024. Other factors included pricing actions implemented in recent quarters and a higher premium price plan adoption. The company’s total consolidated operating revenue in the period was up a mere 0.2% to $33bn. Verizon also followed through on its plan to save costs, and announced that its capital expenditures (capex) were $4.4bn in the first quarter of the year compared to $6bn in the opening three months of 2023. At the start of 2024, the US telco shared expectations for its 2024 capex spending to come in at between $17bn and $17.5bn – a year-on-year decline of between 9.6% and 6.9%.

Deutsche Telekom (DT) has taken its next step in the go-to-market strategy for generative AI (GenAI) services with the launch of detailed packages for its Business GPT offerings. In a statement, the German telco unveiled three modules, dubbed M, L and XL, for integrating GenAI across various enterprises. The modular functionalities come at a fixed price to give companies “full control” over their spending, while the service’s GenAI tool has been “specifically developed for business customers”, and operates on DT’s own cloud infrastructure so that the data is stored in Europe. “It is trained to understand large volumes of text and conveys information in natural dialogues. Companies can easily and flexibly add their own content to the AI assistant’s database and thus customise the chat responses,” the operator noted. Last month, DT secured wind and solar energy specialist UKA Group as its first customer using Business GPT. Find out more.

China Unicom has reported positive financial results for the opening quarter of 2024, with a 2.3% year-on-year rise in operating revenue to 99.5bn yuan (CNY) ($13.7bn) and a 8.9% rise in net profit to CNY 5.6bn ($773m). Its service revenue was also up, increasing 3.4% to CNY 89bn ($12.3bn). In its Connectivity and Communications (CC) business, China Unicom reported accelerated scale expansion, with a total of 337 million mobile subscribers. Of these, 269 million were 5G package subscribers (but don’t necessarily have a 5G-enabled device to be able to use the 5G services), bringing the total penetration rate of 5G packages to 80%. China Unicom also grew its internet of things (IoT) connections, with a net increase of 34.60 million to 529 million. Its fixed broadband subscribers reached 115 million in the first quarter, of which the net increase of gigabit broadband subscribers hit 2.11 million. For its Computing and Digital Smart Applications (CDSA) business, the Chinese telco reported a 30% increase in cloud services revenue to CNY 16.7bn ($2.3bn), and a 4.1% year-on-year rise in datacentre revenue to CNY 6.6bn ($911m). Its base of customers served by virtual 5G industry private networks reached 10,030.

Nokia and A1 Austria have successfully trialled an 800Gbit/s service using a single wavelength in a live network spanning nearly 1,300km from Frankfurt to Budapest. Nokia claimed that this is the first demonstration by A1 of a service boasting such speeds on a single wavelength and operating over a long-haul network. It added that this feat will help the telco meet increasing demand for connectivity from business and wholesale customers. The Finnish vendor claimed its technology, including its IP solutions and optical chipset performance, can help A1 reach “higher bandwidth and energy efficiency” while reducing costs. Read more.

Following on from our coverage of the growth in numbers and capacity of hyperscale datacentres around the world comes news of datacentre expansion plans in Mexico and, to a limited extent, the UK. A joint study by the Mexican Association of Data Centers (MEXDC) and research firm IDC suggests the number of datacentres operating in Mexico is set to increase from the current 15 to about 88 by 2029, Mexico Business has reported. Some $9bn is expected to be invested in the country’s new datacentre infrastructure over the next five years or so and the same again in the country’s energy infrastructure, as the increased number of datacentres will lead to a significant rise in power consumption by the sector, up from the current consumption rate of 305 megawatts (MW) to more than 1,490 MW.

In the UK, meanwhile, a site that was originally to be used by Britishvolt, a now defunct UK startup manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for the automotive sector, to build a so-called ‘gigafactory’ is to be used instead for the construction of new datacentres. The site in Blythe, Northumberland, in the north-east of England, has effectively been acquired by investment firm Blackstone for £110m, the BBC has reported, and will be used by QTS, a Blackstone-owned datacentre operator, for the construction of new facilities. 

- The staff, TelecomTV

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