What’s up with… BT, Cornerstone, Google
- BT creates new digital unit, hires Harmeen Mehta
- UK towers giant Cornerstone revamps
- Google hires ex-Ericsson exec to head up its EMEA telco team
A new unit and senior appointment at BT, a revamp of a major UK towers company and the latest telco-focused appointment by Google Cloud lead the way in this roundup of news developments.
- BT has announced the formation of a new technology unit simply called Digital that will “focus on the development and rapid delivery of innovative products, platforms and services in key areas such as healthcare and data.” The unit, which will start operations on 1 April, will be headed by Harmeen Mehta (pictured above), who joins BT from 1 March as Chief Digital and Innovation Officer and be responsible for IT, digital innovation, BT-wide business transformation and data and product strategy. Mehta joins from Bharti Airtel, where she was Group CIO and spent 2020 helping the Indian telco giant rediscover “the purpose of telecoms” as part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- As part of the revamp at BT, current CTIO Howard Watson becomes Chief Technology Officer, “leading the team accountable for network strategy, networks transformation and service platforms, as well as retaining accountability for cyber and information security,” while Mike Sherman, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer, heads for the BT exit door. For the full details, see this press release.
- Vodafone UK and Telefónica UK (O2) have finalized the new ownership details of their towers infrastructure joint venture Cornerstone, the UK’s leading towers operation that has been building and running sites that have been shared by the two operators since 2012. The revamped ownership will result in Vodafone UK’s 50% stake transferring to Vantage Towers, the recently-formed towers unit within Vodafone Group that is planning an IPO in the coming months. Cornerstone currently runs 14,200 macro sites and 1,400 micro sites, as well as supporting the two operators at other neutral sites, and will continue to build out new sites for its co-owners as 5G rollouts continue. For more details from Vodafone, see this announcement.
- We noted last week that Ericsson had appointed a new head of UK and Ireland (Katherine Ainley) but that the whereabouts of the previous incumbent, Marielle Lindgren were not clear… Now they are, as she has surfaced in an exciting role, as Managing Director, Telco Industry EMEA at Google Cloud.
- The closure of UK schools due to Covid-19 has turned the parental spotlight onto the costs involved in downloading or streaming educational material and, as a result, they’ve been calling for zero-rating of such documents. UK operators aren’t keen on this, citing technical issues. According to Schools Week, it’s expected that most pupils will learn remotely until at least mid-February and it’s estimated that just under 1 million UK pupils rely on mobile devices to access the Internet. All four mobile operators would rather work with a government scheme to offer ‘data uplifts’ for poorer children.
- Tele2 has turned to Nokia for a Standalone (SA) 5G Core and Voice over 5G (Vo5G) platform “to enhance its cloud infrastructure and improve data and voice connectivity for Tele2’s subscribers in Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.” For further details, see this announcement.
- Parler, thought to be the most likely new home for Trump following his expulsion from Twitter, appears to have given up the fight in the face of general hostility from the likes of Apple, Google, and most recently Amazon, which have all apparently banned the ‘free speech’ site from their services and infrastructure for transgressing their various terms and conditions on hate speech and violence. Parler’s CEO, John Matze, says the site "will likely be down longer than expected" because the big tech companies have shut their doors and influenced little tech companies to do the same. The result is that Parler can’t get any company with enough server space to do the heavy lifting for a move... at least so Matze claims. See this Verge article on the latest on the situation.
- Even as Verizon in the US once more declines to name the date for the termination of its 3G services (having already missed two by more than a country mile, the operator won't make itself a hostage to fortune again by committing to a third one), over in Malaysia telcos have announced that, in compliance with the country's National Digital Infrastructure Plan, 3G networks will be retired by the end of this year. The result, says the Malaysian government, will be increased efficiency of management of "remaining infrastructures to ensure optimal network quality", adding that freed-up 3G spectrum will likely be pressed into service to boost 4G capacity. Commenting on the news, the financial market research outfit, Kenanga Research, noted that looking forward "it is hoped that we will have a strong enough backbone infrastructure to introduce the national 5G network post-2022." According to the Statista.com website, 3G coverage in Malaysia at the end of 2020 stood at 95.5 per cent of the population, while 4G/LTE was 82.2 per cent. According to the latest MCMC Hand Phone Survey published last year, 25.9 per cent of Malaysians are still using 2G feature phones, of which 76.6 per cent do not want to switch to more expensive smartphones. Indications are that when 3G bites the dust, 2G will be kept up and running probably until at least 2023. Meanwhile the introduction of 5G has been postponed until 2023, with meaningful services unlikely to be available to any but an elite metropolitan few until 2024 or even 2025.
- A new report from Ampere Analysis that Covid-19 has further boosted the uptake of streaming services. In the US and across Western Europe more than 400 million households are now signed-up to streamed TV services, with US homes paying an average of four monthly video subscriptions compared to two per household in Western Europe. Meanwhile, over in Africa, data from Digital TV Research shows that streamed media on demand is also burgeoning in popularity, albeit from a lower starting position. Last year OTT film and TV revenues were US$392 million but the market is growing very quickly, and forecasts are that the OTT and SVOD sector will collectively be worth $1.7 billion within five years. Unsurprisingly, demand is greatest in comparatively wealthy countries where rising middle classes now enjoy some degree of discretionary disposable income in a continent where unemployment and poverty remains all too prevalent. South Africa will be responsible for the lion's share of revenues, contributing 34 per cent of them by 2026, while Nigeria will bring in 20 per cent.
- The FCC’s Auction 107, which involves scores of companies battling for 280 MHz of “prime mid-band spectrum in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band—a portion of the C-band,” has hit an incredible $80.7 billion in bids after 70 rounds and isn’t over yet! Extraordinary… Get the latest details at this FCC web page.
- The staff, TelecomTV
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