What’s up with… EU’s Big Tech Acts, 5G in France, M&A in Brazil, Ericsson UK jobs

  • Europe gets heavy with Big Tech
  • Iliad (Free) stirs the 5G pot in France
  • Oi mobile gets snapped up by rival trio
  • Ericsson offers some pre-Xmas jobs joy in the UK

A crackdown on the Big tech firms by the European Commission, 5G competition in France and M&A in Brazil are at the front of today’s lengthy news queue.

The European Commission is set to crack down hard on the Big Tech companies starting in 2021 with the threat of major fines – up to 10% of global turnover – if they break rules outlined in the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets ActMany online platforms have come to play a central role in the lives of our citizens and businesses, and even our society and democracy at large. With today's proposals, we are organising our digital space for the next decades. With harmonised rules, ex ante obligations, better oversight, speedy enforcement, and deterrent sanctions, we will ensure that anyone offering and using digital services in Europe benefits from security, trust, innovation and business opportunities,” stated the Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton. The two acts will be discussed by the European Parliament and the Member States and, if adopted, “the final text will be directly applicable across the European Union” (which, of course, will not include the UK from January 2021. For more details, see this European Commission press release.

Ever the thorn in its rivals’ side, Iliad (using its Free brand) has launched its 5G service in France with charging a premium price and with what it claims is the broadest current 5G coverage. The service is available as part of the operator’s standard mobile service monthly package, priced at €19.99, which is cheaper than the monthly tariffs from Orange, Bouygues (except for one short-term capped offer) and SFR. “With 5,255 active sites in France, Free’s 5G network already covers almost 40% of the population. This means that Free now has the country’s largest mobile 5G network, spanning rural areas as well as towns and cities,” stated the operator today, noting that its coverage uses spectrum in the 700 MHz as well as 3.5 GHz bands. For further details, see this press release.

A consortium of TIM BrasilTelefônica Brasil (VIVO) and Claro have won the bidding war to acquire the mobile business of the Oi Group for about €2.7 billion, a move that will reduce the number of major network-based mobile operators in the country from four to three. The trio will divide up Oi’s assets between them: TIM Brasil, which is contributing about €1.2 billion to the acquisition pot, says it is getting about 14.5 million customers (about 40% of the total), about 49 MHz of spectrum (about half of Oi’s total) and about 7,200 mobile sites (about half of the total). See this TIM (Telecom Italia) announcement for further details.

Ericsson says its involvement in 5G network rollout programs is set to create 800 new jobs by 2022. The recruitment will include around 250 roles hired directly by Ericsson, with the remaining jobs to be delivered through the vendor’s field and resource partners. The Swedish company says it’s now taking a leading role in the construction of all four major 5G network builds. The upstaffing is to support its engineering, project management and field operations activities as it upgrades over a third of the UK’s mobile sites. Also, a new 5G Centre of Excellence is to be established by the Swedish vendor in the UK to deliver engineering skills. See this press release for more.

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), which teams up with private investors to “finance solutions to the most critical challenges facing the developing world today,” has approved an investment of $300 million in Africa Data Centres, part of the Liquid Telecom group, for its expansion South Africa and Kenya, and awarded a loan of up to $500 million to the Vodafone-led Global Partnership for Ethiopia that will “finance the design, development, and operation of a new private mobile network provider and the acquisition of a mobile network provider license. The project is expected to have a highly developmental impact through the creation of a new private telecommunications network that will increase connectivity in Ethiopia while utilizing trusted technology.” The Ethiopian Communications Authority is set to award two licenses next year as part of an effort to liberalize a market of 100 million potential users that has until now been closed to overseas investment. For more on the DFC decision, see this announcement.

Belgium’s national operator Proximus has acquired MVNO Mobile Vikings for €130 million, a move that adds about 335,000 customers to its portfolio. The MVNO is expected to generate revenues of about €50 million and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of about €15 million this year. See this press release for more details.

Still with Proximus… Its Luxembourg operation has awarded a seven-year 5G network equipment deal to Nokia. Deployment of Nokia’s AirScale Single RAN (S-RAN) portfolio for both indoor and outdoor coverage is expected to start next year. Proximus Luxembourg has been awarded spectrum in the 700Mhz band for ultra-reliable, low-latency communication and the 3.5Ghz band for dense urban coverage. Nokia says in this press release that it is replacing the “incumbent radio vendor,” believed to be Huawei. 

Nokia has also landed a multi-vendor network optimization deal with Asiacell’s operations in Iraq. See this press release for further details.

Mavenir has teamed up with MTI and Facebook Connectivity to launch the firstEvenstar remote radio head (RRH). Evenstar is a RRH design developed by Mavenir, MTI, Facebook Connectivity, Deutsche Telekom and others based on O-RAN Alliance fronthaul specifications under the guidance of the Telecom Infra project (TIP) that aims to deliver a commercial product priced at around $1,000, way cheaper than traditional RRH units. Mavenir says the Evenstar B3 RRH is now in lab testing with multiple network operators. “The availability of low-cost RRHs based on Open RAN specifications is key to faster adoption of Open RAN. We are excited to work with Facebook, TIP and MTI to bring the first 4G/5G Open RAN-compliant Evenstar radio to market that is generally available for use by the Open RAN community,” stated Mavenir CEO Pardeep Kohli. Read more.
It’s worth noting that only last week, DISH Network, which is building an Open RAN-based 5G network in the US with Mavenir as one of its main partners, announced it is deploying Open RAN radio units developed by MTI. Small world? Read more.
Still with MTI… The Taiwanese company is one of a number of companies (alongside Altiostar, GigaTera and others) that are supporting NEC with the launch of an Open RAN lab in India, which will act as a complementary operation to NEC’s Open RAN Centre of Excellence (CoE) in the UK. India is a hotbed of alternative 5G activity, with operators there keen to either develop their own networking elements or at least source 5G technology from local sources. NEC says the lab will “accelerate development of NEC’s 5G open ecosystem by pre-integrating partner Open RAN components to form end-to-end commercial-ready solutions according to customer-specific needs.” Read more.  
UK startup AccelerComm a spin-out from Southampton University, has joined the O-RAN Alliance to help develop specifications that will enable more efficient disaggregated radio access networks. The company has developed a complete channel coding IP solution that “delivers reduced latency and power consumption for the most critical components of a 5G system, whilst meeting all the throughput and error correction targets.” Read more.
Accenture says it has played a key role in enabling Rakuten Mobile to launch its innovative virtualized mobile network infrastructure and helped the Japanese operator to develop its Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP). Read more.  

- The staff, TelecomTV

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