What’s up with… Telefónica and the metaverse, eSIM adoption, Bullitt

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Sep 6, 2022

  • Telefónica has got the hots (and a special day) for the metaverse
  • Consumers are keen on eSIM options, according to survey results
  • Niche British handset firm jumps aboard the satellite comms bandwagon

In today’s industry news roundup: Telefónica is bigging up the metaverse with a special day of immersive digital experience and Web3 presentations; the eSIM drums are banging ever louder, with Amdocs adding to the volume levels; British firm Bullitt takes a seat alongside some of the industry’s biggest satellite comms names; and much more!

In case anyone wasn’t sure how excited Telefónica is about the services potential of the metaverse, the Spanish telco has scheduled a presentation for 29 September to highlight how it believes the immersive digital world will affect our lives. During Telefónica Metaverse Day, Chema Alonso, the operator’s chief digital officer, and Yaiza Rubio, its chief metaverse officer, will help to present “the latest news about innovation in the metaverse and other firsts related to the new digital era: Tokens, NFTs, VR, AR and mixed reality devices, Web3 and much more”, and discuss the “novelties of Web3 and its practical applications in the digital era”. Telefónica has been making quite a bit of noise since the start of 2022 about such activities, including hooking up with public blockchain ecosystem Polygon to develop Web3 solutions, and looks set to position itself as one of the telcos that will be at the forefront of metaverse research and development, along with the likes of SK Telecom and NTT Docomo. For a neat little guide to how Web3, the metaverse, cryptocurrencies, blockchain et al fit together, check out this brief explanation from Gartner.  

The appetite for eSIM-based service activation among consumers is strong, according to the findings of the eSIM Consumer Pulse 2022 report, which is based on research commissioned by Amdocs and conducted by global market research firm Dynata with 2,500 consumers in Australia, the UK and the US. The results show that “81% of consumers are either actively in favour or open to the idea of an eSIM-only future for smartphones, compared to just 19% who aren’t ready. Meanwhile consumers who want their MNO to integrate eSIM into their offering (58%) outnumber those who don’t (15%) by nearly four to one,” according to Amdocs, which notes that more than 200 mobile network operators (MNOs) in over 70 countries already provide eSIM provisioning and management and that major smartphone makers, including Apple and Samsung, are increasingly supporting eSIM activation (which uses embedded software to connect to a service rather than a physical SIM card). And, to be fair, it also notes it has an eSIM Cloud solution it wants to sell to mobile operators. But this looks like a good time to be highlighting such capabilities. “eSIM is an opportunity for CSPs to deliver a truly digital and modern customer experience,” notes Dario Talmesio, research director at Omdia, commenting on the survey results. “With the smartphone market approaching the 250 million mark in 2022, according to Omdia estimates, communications service providers need to take advantage of such an opportunity to use eSIM to redesign their customer journeys, introduce flexibility and give instant gratification to consumers. If not, connectivity will remain the only digital service that cannot be purchased, fulfilled, and managed online,” he added. The survey results have been published only days after T-Mobile US threw down the eSIM gauntlet to AT&T and Verizon in the US market – see T-Mobile US makes bold eSIM push to poach new customers.

Bullitt, a British white-label mobile phone maker that operates successfully (and profitably) in a few particular niches, such as ruggedised handsets and other somewhat neglected areas of the market, is not exactly a household name. That anonymity, though, could soon be a thing of the past if the company succeeds in its latest venture, which puts it in direct competition with both T-Mobile US and Elon Musk’s massive Starlink satellite operation and, to some extent, Apple. According to the BBC, which first broke the story, Bullitt is getting into the satellite connected handset and communications services market. As TelecomTV recently reported, T-Mobile US and Starlink, via its SpaceX parent, have inked a deal to allow T-Mobile users to connect to the Starlink constellation and use their existing smartphones to send and receive text messages anywhere in US jurisdiction, including (and most importantly) in areas that have no terrestrial cellphone coverage. Voice and data connectivity will come quite a lot later. When the Bullitt handsets become available, in situations where no Wi-Fi or mobile network signal can be accessed, they will automatically link to one of two as yet unnamed global satellite networks (the company is being very coy about which satellite networks these are). The service is scheduled to launch in February next year and, like the T-Mobile/Starlink service, will initially offer just text messaging services but, in theory, can do so anywhere in the world. According to the BBC, people who are sent a text by Bullitt device users will receive the message in the form of an SMS and can reply if they download Bullitt's app, all of which is free. The Bullitt device owner, though, will have to pay a monthly subscription for the service. So far there is no indication of how much that monthly fee will be, but it will be a tiered tariff based on existing pricing plans and payable in addition to standard network charges. The new Bullitt handsets feature a bespoke chipset developed by an unidentified Asian manufacturer, and no photographs of the handsets themselves have yet been released. If the service works, the company owners may need to rename the company Silver Bullitt.

Months after Telenor divested its local business through a $105m sale to Lebanese firm M1 Group, Qatar-based operator Ooredoo is now reportedly closing in on an exit from conflict-ridden Myanmar too. Reuters reported that the telco has lined up a deal to sell its Myanmar unit to Singapore-based company The One Matrix Ventures (TOMV), which focuses on investments in digital infrastructure, fintech and renewable energy. TOMV is also said to be discussing potential partnerships with other parties as part of the deal to help it obtain clearance by the relevant regulation authorities. According to the news agency, Ooredoo has already notified the nation’s telecoms authority, the Posts and Telecommunications Department (PTD), about its sale plans but has not yet filed an official request for approval. The first indication of Ooredoo’s search for a way out emerged in July when it was reported that the company has attracted some local interest in its unit. If confirmed, Ooredoo’s move to leave the market wouldn’t come out of the blue as Myanmar has been in turmoil since a military coup in February 2021 that resulted in power shifting from the former ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), to a military junta. The conflict resulted in a partial shutdown of mobile data in the country. There are other two mobile operators in Myanmar: state telco MPT, which is also backed by Japanese companies KDDI and Sumitomo Corporation; and Mytel, jointly owned by the Myanmar Economic Corporation (a holding company owned by Myanmar’s army) and Viettel, a Vietnamese telco operated by Vietnam’s Ministry of Defence.

Hot off the press from Basking Ridge, New Jersey, comes the news that research commissioned by Verizon Business and carried out by FT Longitude, a part of the Financial Times Group, finds that business leaders are “struggling with inertia”. (It would provide great entertainment, we believe, to see some captains of industry in their corporate-branded leotards wrestling with an amorphous blob of inertia on prime-time TV – two falls, two submissions or a knockout to decide the winner. Our money’s on inertia.) Isaac Newton first defined inertia in his first law of motion, which states: “Every object perseveres in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed thereon”. With that in mind, the Verizon report looks at the impact Covid-19 has had on the digital workplace and how technology can enable new ways of working in “an unpredictable business climate”. Some 600 global C-suite executives were interviewed about subjects, such as transforming customer and employee experience and technology deployment, in light of the shock of the global pandemic and how that shock can be parlayed to foment meaningful long-term change. It also analyses how “corporate leaders are reimagining their business for future growth”. On the upside, the research shows that business leaders feel better equipped to make decisions quickly (71%), are able to devise strategies to meet long-term objectives (72%), can adopt new technologies (75%), and develop more empathetic and trusting relationships with both customers (71%) and employees (69%). Nonetheless, given the pandemic-induced changes to business practices, such as working from home, virtual offices and so on, 66% of respondents confirmed that Covid-19 exposed serious strategic weaknesses in their organisations. Simultaneously, 60% said they now struggle to act decisively when new market opportunities present themselves. As far as technology is concerned, the report highlights the increasing role played by top executives in its adoption over the past year. Cybersecurity services (78%), data analytics software and tools (75%) and cloud enablement (74%) were the top priorities. That said, the research also points out a “disconnect between intent and execution”. For example, 74% of those interviewed identify improving the customer experience as a top strategic priority, but only 38% have done anything much about it. Fewer still have embraced automation to enable the customer experience. Commenting on the report, Sampath Sowmyanarayan, the recently appointed CEO of Verizon Business, said: “The big lesson we’ve learned over the last few years is that there’s not a single right way to lead, build a culture or execute a strategy. This is why we also see many organisations attempting to adopt a ‘bias to yes’ as a guiding principle.” Really?

In India, the government is to introduce new data protection legislation imminently to “make the online world more accountable for what is published there”, according to the IT and Telecom Minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw. “The people who are part of the law enforcement agencies and the policymakers, all of us have a role. But we also needed to put a greater sense of accountability within the social media, internet, technology world itself,” he noted. To meet its aims, the government has now abandoned its Personal Data Protection Bill of 2019 and will replace it with the new one, which will have a “comprehensive framework” upon which “contemporary digital privacy laws” will be built. The minister added, perhaps ominously, that comms technologies would be used “to prevent crimes”. The 2019 Personal Data Protection Bill, which would have defined and policed how an individual's data could be accessed and used by the government and businesses, was introduced in December 2019 where it was referred to the Joint Committee of the Houses (that’s the Lok Sabha, the lower House of Parliament, and the Rajya Sabha, which is the upper house.) There it got caught up in the infamously grindingly slow Indian government bureaucracy, which moves at the speed of a geriatric snail, and was presented back to the Lok Sabha only on 16 December, 2021. It has now been unceremoniously dumped and was a total waste of time and effort. As some sort of explanation for the unwonted delay and the drafting of the new bill, the minister said: “There is now global consensus within the G-20 group of digital ministers on the need to make technology providers also accountable for the things they are providing.” Ah, that explains everything.

Telecom Egypt is in talks to offload part of the stake it holds in Vodafone Egypt to the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), according to a report from news outlet Egypt Independent that cites Bloomberg. Telecom Egypt currently holds a 45% stake in Vodafone Egypt, while the Vodafone Group holds 55% (a stake that is being transferred to Vodacom). The report suggests Telecom Egypt could sell a 25% stake in Vodafone Egypt to the QIA, leaving it with a 20% stake. Telecom Egypt has stated that no official offers have been received. Earlier this year, Qatar pledged to pump $5bn into the Egyptian economy in a show of regional support, Bloomberg reported.  

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission is to slap Meta Platforms with a fine of €405m following an investigation into Meta-owned Instagram’s handling of children’s data, reports Reuters. The full details of the commission’s decision will be published next week, a spokesperson told Reuters. 

The UK government security review into the acquisition of niche British chip manufacturer Newport Wafer Fab by Chinese-owned Dutch firm Nexperia has been extended, with the deadline for a decision about whether to allow the already-completed takeover to stand being pushed back from 12 September to 5 October, according to a report by The Sunday Times (subscription required). The newspaper also notes that private equity firm Palladian Investment Partners (among others) is ready to step in with an alternative acquisition offer if Nexperia’s takeover is declared void. For the full background on the merger and acquisition saga, see Newport Wafer Fab takeover arguments turn nasty.

As Europe returns from its August holidays, so the debate about the future of Italy’s fixed access network infrastructure and the potential merger between Telecom Italia’s (TIM’s) access network and wholesale rival Open Fiber, is reignited. Reuters reports that state lender CDP, which controls Open Fiber, is set to make a non-binding bid for TIM’s fixed network during the coming few weeks, following up on an agreement that was reached in May. But… there are still many obstacles standing in the way of the deal. TIM investor Vivendi has stated previously it will not sign off on the sale of TIM’s fixed access network at a valuation of anything less than €31bn, about 50% higher than the offer expected from CDP, while the Italian government, which plays a crucial role in getting any deal over the line, is about to change as the Mario Draghi administration is set to lose control in a national election towards the end of September, and the political party regarded as the favourite to win control, Brothers of Italy, is not keen on the deal as currently agreed. This saga is far from over. 

- The staff, TelecomTV

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