What’s up with… BT, Telecom Italia, Sunrise

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Nov 27, 2023

  • BT loses interest in musicMagpie
  • Telecom Italia carves out its NetCo unit
  • Sunrise to sunset some jobs

In today’s industry news roundup: BT is no longer interested in acquiring used smartphone business musicMagpie; Telecom Italia has carved out the unit it has agreed to sell to KKR; Sunrise is slimming down its management layer; and much more!

Just a week after it was revealed as a potential bidder for musicMagpie, BT has issued a statement to the London Stock Exchange (LSE) to note that it is “not intending to make an offer” for the used mobile handset reseller. BT was believed to be interested in the company as a way to add extra muscle to the e-commerce platform part of the super app being developed by its consumer division EE, but clearly the terms were not favourable. In fact, musicMagpie has revealed in its own update to the LSE that neither BT nor its other suitor, investment firm Aurelius, are taking their exploratory M&A talks any further. As a consequence, musicMagpie’s share price lost 18% of its value in Monday trading to drop to 16.25 pence. The board of musicMagpie stated that the company continues to seek potential buyers. 

With the sale of its fixed-line network assets and associated operations to private equity firm KKR for €18.8bn agreed, Telecom Italia (TIM) has now officially carved out its NetCo unit, which comprises not only network assets and systems but more than half of the Italian telco’s staff. According to the operator, NetCoincludes the fixed network infrastructure and related real estate… the wholesale business and the entire stake in the [power management] subsidiary Telenergia,” as well as more than 20,000 staff, of which more than 19,000 already work in the wholesale and networks team, while about 900 will come from corporate functions. As a result of the move, from 1 December the remaining Telecom Italia company, which comprises its mobile and enterprise businesses, will only have about 17,500 staff on its payroll. The creation of the separate NetCo operation is the latest step towards concluding the sale of the business to KKR, but the deal isn’t over the line yet as the Italian telco’s largest single shareholder, French media giant Vivendi, is still opposing the deal and has threatened to go to court to halt the sale, which it believes has been managed unlawfully.  

Swiss telco Sunrise is looking to cut 200 jobs in the first quarter of 2024, a move that could involve redundancy notices for about 180 staff (about 6.6% of its total 2,722 full-time employees): The remainder would be accounted for by a mix of natural headcount fluctuations, internal changes and early retirements. The move is part of the operator’s efforts to achieve a “leaner corporate structure” following its merger with Liberty Global’s UPC in 2021. Sunrise will mainly consider redundancies across “a variety of leadership positions and functions without direct customer contact” across all areas of the organisation. The company stressed that its staff in shops and its customer service representatives with direct contact with consumers are not the focus of these redundancies. Following the consultation process, which began today and involves employee representatives and Syndicom, a Swiss trade union, the Swiss telco will “decide on any potential redundancies” and implement them between mid-January and the end of March 2024 at the latest. For any redundancies that are found to be “unavoidable”, a social plan, in addition to financial support, will offer those affected professional support and will establish a fund for “individual bridging measures”. “Following the merger and integration, we’ve moved our company strongly forwards and oriented it firmly towards the future. The many projects and measures that we’ve already implemented are leading us to streamline our corporate structure so that we can continue to increase our flexibility and competitiveness in the market and to build a foundation for stable growth in the coming years,” stated André Krause, CEO of Sunrise. Find out more.

Still in the land of fine chocolate and private bank accounts… Cable network minnow Quickline, which commands a 4% share of Switzerland’s broadband market and 8% of the digital TV sector, has announced the sudden departure of two of its top executives: “The CEO Frédéric Goetschmann and the CMO Urs von Ins will leave the company,” it announced bluntly late last week. Chairman Felix Kunz will take over as temporary CEO from the start of next year while a permanent head honcho is identified, while head of market management Sergio Giorgetta temporarily takes the CMO role. Read more.

Having decided earlier in the year that Open RAN is an industry development worthy of investment and that Qualcomm was an appropriate partner, Viettel High Tech, the vendor arm of Vietnamese telco Viettel, has announced the successful validation and deployment of an Open RAN-based 5G gNodeB (a virtualised base station) based on the wireless chip vendor giant’s technology. According to the company, “Viettel is the world's first company to deploy 5G Open RAN network equipment with  the Qualcomm X100 5G RAN Accelerator Card and Qualcomm QRU100 5G RAN Platform on a live network with real users and data traffic.” And it hasn’t installed it in a sleepy rural location – rather, it is in a network cluster in the Hai Ba Trung District in Hanoi. According to Viettel, “This area is a typical representation of the 5G deployment model in urban areas with dense populations and proximity to university campuses, boasting a high concentration of subscribers, ranging between 300-400 subscribers in a cell. Deploying within this high-traffic area facilitated the product optimisation process, enabling Viettel to quickly improve the products to meet stringent requirements for Viettel’s networks.” Read more

The final nail has been clawed out of the rich communications services (RCS) coffin. Given up for dead, the GSMA’s messaging standard got the kiss of life when Google started supporting it on its Android mobile device platform a couple of years back. It was hoped then that if Apple joined in and supported RCS on its iOS system, the world would have the beginnings of an open, federated and standard platform for rich mobile messaging (videos, applications and other bells and whistles) and users would be happy. But until last week – and despite urgings from the likes of  the EU – Apple wouldn’t join in because… well, it’s Apple. But now the tech giant has announced that it will launch an RCS software update for the iPhone in 2024. However, in a hold-your-horses move to prevent unabashed joy and hyperventilating, it has stressed that it’s not giving everything away... According to 9to5Mac, Apple says it’s not opening up its prized iMessage app to other platforms, but RCS will instead replace SMS and MMS on the iPhone and “exist separately from iMessage when available.” The fully federated single global platform isn’t quite a reality yet, then…

The prospects for quantum technology are of increasing international interest it seems… As well as the in-depth look by IDTEchEx at what’s coming down the pipe in terms of quantum sensors, the UK government recently published an update to the UK’s National Quantum Strategy that focuses on mission-led innovation. As we noticed last week, Gabriela Styf Sjöman, managing director of research and network strategy at BT, authored a blog in which she stated that the publication of the missions has “turbo-boosted the UK’s ability to compete, by setting out its long-term ‘time-bound’ missions: Missions that will have wide-ranging benefits, enabling industry, academia and investors to come together to make them a reality and signal the UK’s intent internationally.” But it’s worth taking a look at those missions in more detail, given the growing interest in the developments related to quantum computing and sensors. There are five such missions, and the UK government is now working with industry, academia and investors to define the programmes that will help deliver each one. Mission 1 calls for there to be accessible, nation-wide availability of UK-based quantum computing that can run 1 trillion coherent quantum operations. This refers to the number of operations a quantum computer can perform before a single logical error occurs: It’s an ambitious target, as currently even the best-shielded and fastest quantum computers can complete only a few hundred error-free quantum operations before decohering. Mission 2 is that the UK shall have deployed “the world’s most advanced quantum network at scale”, and thus be a bona fide pioneer in the development of the quantum internet. Mission 3 is that by 2030 every National Health Service (NHS) Trust “will benefit from quantum sensing-enabled solutions, helping those with chronic illness live healthier, longer lives through early diagnosis and treatment.” Mission 4 is that, by the same date, quantum navigation systems, including clocks, will be deployed on aircraft, providing next-generation accuracy for resilience independent of satellite signals. Last, but not least, and also by 2030, mobile networked quantum sensors “will have unlocked new situational awareness capabilities, exploited across critical infrastructure in the transport, telecoms, energy, and defence sectors.” The government strategy also calls for the early commercialisation of quantum computing, particularly in quantum communications, as well as the establishment of international links with at least five other countries on the development of quantum networking standards and connectivity with other quantum networks.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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