What’s up with… BT & ServiceNow, Orange, HPE & Juniper

  • ServiceNow further fuels BT’s IT transformation
  • Orange is going for gold with private 5G SA
  • UK competition authority launches HPE/Juniper Networks probe

In today’s industry news roundup: BT is expanding and extending its reliance on ServiceNow as it continues to update its IT estate; Orange is setting up private 5G networks for broadcasters during this summer’s Olympic Games in France; the CMA is considering whether HPE’s planned acquisition of Juniper Networks might hamper competition in the UK; and much more!

UK national telco BT and ServiceNow have announced an “expanded strategic relationship” that will “extend ServiceNow service management capabilities to all BT Group units to drive savings, efficiency, and improved customer experiences.” BT has been working with the cloud-based digital workflow specialist for some years already: In May 2022, the UK telco’s BT Digital division announced plans to consolidate BT’s legacy service management platforms into a single system, ServiceNow, and replace 56 legacy systems. Now, as part of the new agreement, the operator is to use ServiceNow Service Bridge “for a seamless, automated connection between BT and their customers, and plans to pilot ServiceNow’s Now Assist for Telecom Service Management (TSM) to power generative AI capabilities for internal and customer-facing teams,” the telco noted in this announcement. Hena Jalil, MD and business CIO at BT Group, noted: “Reimagining how we deliver service management requires a platform-first approach, building stronger foundations for us to do things faster and smarter. Our approach, powered by ServiceNow and enhanced with AI, will transform customer experience at BT Group, unlocking value at every stage of the journey.” News of the deal came only days after BT’s chief digital and innovation officer Harmeen Mehta told the audience at DTW24 in Copenhagen that it has shrunk its IT estate from more than 1,500 complex, standalone IT systems to just a few hundred cloud-based applications – see BT’s digital chief boasts 90% IT estate shrinkage.

Orange is deploying private 5G standalone (SA) networks for use by broadcasters during the upcoming Olympic Games in France, which run from 26 July to 11 August. In addition, and complementary to, its existing commercial cellular infrastructure, Orange is to deploy private 5G SA networks at several major venues, including the Stade de France, Arena Bercy and Paris La Défense Arena, as well as along the 6km stretch of the Seine for the opening ceremony and at sea at the Marina de Marseille. The networks will provide broadcasters with “high, stable upload speeds, essential for transporting high-definition images, guaranteed ultra-low latency times for sending images in near-real time [and] the benefits of superior security intrinsic to the technology,” according to the operator. Orange, which is the exclusive operator for the games, will be connecting “more than 120 venues and the equivalent of 32 world championships at the same time: From major stadiums, such as the Stade de Marseille and the Stade de France, through major areas, such as the Invalides, to airports, railway stations, training centres and also iconic and unusual locations, such as the Marina de Marseille or Tahiti.” Read more

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a merger inquiry into Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)’s planned $14bn acquisition of Juniper Networks, which was announced in January. The watchdog is considering whether the acquisition might “result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services.” Interested parties have until 3 July to send comments to the CMA, which plans to make an initial ruling by 14 August.   

The datacentre action in Asia Pacific is never ending, it seems… Equinix says it has invested 240m Australian dollars (US$160m) to add 4,175 cabinets to two of its International Business Exchange datacentres, SY5 in Sydney and ME2 in Melbourne. The move supports “the rising need for high-density power, advanced cooling and interconnection as demand for digital infrastructure accelerates, including artificial intelligence (AI),” notes Equinix in this announcement. The news comes only days after Singtel and Telekom Malaysia became the latest south-east Asia telcos to announce new datacentre investment plans – see Singtel, Telekom Malaysia further fuel Asia’s datacentre boom.

In interesting and perhaps potentially disturbing economic news from Germany, where the plan by US firm Wolfspeed to build its first facility in Europe, a $3bn microprocessor fabrication plant in the German state of Saarland, has been put on what may well be long-term hold as the troubled company chases promised but delayed funding as well as new investments. Back in February 2023, to considerable fanfare, it was announced that the new highly automated, cutting-edge 200 nanometre (nm) wafer factory would quickly be up and running, provided the European Commission (EC) approved a hefty sum of state aid to help with the buildout, which it did. The plant, which was to be dedicated to the production of chips for use in electric vehicles, was supposed to be built on the site of a decommissioned coal-fired power station and hyped as “a great transformation driver and a job engine for a traditionally industrial region”. The announcement of the delay, first covered by Reuters, will be a blow to the Saarland, to Germany and to the wider European Union (EU) even as the bloc strives to reduce reliance on chips originating in Asia in general and China in particular. The delay will also affect Wolfspeed’s wider, and seemingly overambitious, $6.5bn expansion plan. According to market analysts, pronounced weakness in both the US and European electric vehicle (EV) markets is causing major reductions in capital spending, hence the decision to mothball the proposed Saarland fab. No-one knows, or at least no-one is saying, how long the delay will last, but there are rumours it will be at least two years – it could easily be longer and construction might not happen at all if the downturn continues for long. Wolfspeed has been spurred into belated defensive action by a persistent activist investor, Jana Partners, which says it has built up a “significant holding” in the company and is demanding immediate action after what it calls “a staggering erosion of shareholder value” at Wolfspeed. The company’s valuation is down by 52% over the past 12 months and Jana Partners says all remedies to rectify the situation must be explored, including the sale of the company. The knock-on effect of the vultures circling Wolfspeed could well impact the EU’s target of securing for itself 20% of global market share of semiconductor production by 2030. 

The central Asian republic of Kazakhstan has a long history as a pivotal trading hub at the centre of the several spokes of the legendary Silk Road. Since achieving its independence from the former USSR in 1991, it has established itself as the richest nation in Central Asia both in terms of GDP and natural resources such as oil, natural gas, minerals and metals, which make Kazakhstan rich in comparison to other countries in the region. And now it is emerging as a regional digital hub in its own right as it expands its 5G networks. According to an update issued by the press office of the prime minister of Kazakhstan, Oljas Abaiūly Bektenov, some 1,144 5G base stations have been installed in 20 cities, towns and conurbations across the country and 5G services are being extended in the capital city, Astana, as well as the former capital (in Soviet times) of Almaty and in Shymkent, the third-biggest city in the country (sited close to the border with Uzbekistan). Full 5G service across all three cities will be available by the end of 2025. The minister of digital development, innovations and aerospace industry, Zhaslan Madiyev, says all regional centres across the country will be providing full 5G services by the end of 2027. Meanwhile, it is claimed that internet availability and usage is now “on a par” with that of developed countries as many resources have been devoted to extending the reach of broadband facilities: Government figures show that internet traffic has increased by 61.5% since 2020 and the number of users has grown by 12.9% over the same four years. The Ookla Speedtest data for Kazakhstan (as of April this year) shows the country is at 66th place globally with average broadband downlink access speed of 43.6 Mbit/s, putting it well ahead of Russia and Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, a 390km-long fibre-optic underwater link is under construction along the coast of the Caspian Sea as part of the “Digital Silk Road” programme. It is costing 23 billion Kazakhstani tenge ($50.8m) and is close to completion. Also being built in an effort to expand the capabilities along the Digital Silk Road is a nationwide west-to-east data traffic “hyper highway” designed to provide, by 2025, an alternative route for international data traffic in transit, in the hope that big tech companies, including the likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft, can be persuaded to use it.

Still in Kazakhstan… The country’s biggest telco, state-owned incumbent operator Kazakhtelecom (Kaztel for short), is to sell its mobile subsidiary, Mobile Telecom Services (MTS), to Qatar’s Power International Holding (PIH) for $1.1bn. Kazakhstan’s minister of digital development, Zhaslan Madiyev, says “the new investor will also be committed to expanding the MTS network” as well as boosting the “expansion of the investor base by means of the attraction of a new name” thus “supposedly enhancing competition”, which is a strange way of framing the deal. He added that there are “obligations to build base stations and install 5G base stations.” The deal is the result of business agreements signed by Kazakhstan and Qatar in February: Central to those agreements are the IT, telecoms and banking sectors.

More than 90% of incoming calls with spoofed caller IDs have disappeared from Telecom Egypt’s network since the national operator deployed Enea’s voice firewall to protect against scam calls and unwanted robocalls, according to the vendor. Enea says that when its firewall solution was initially deployed, more than 8% of all calls “were identified as fraudulent and immediately blocked. This has acted as a deterrent to scammers, who have now ceased targeting the network, resulting in a roughly 90% reduction in spoof calls on the network.” stated the vendor. 

- The staff, TelecomTV

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