What’s up with… Telefónica, Orange Business, Lebara

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Dec 20, 2023

  • Spain to secure defensive stake in Telefónica
  • Orange Business acquires digital services consultancy
  • European MVNO Lebara preps for sale or IPO

In today’s industry news roundup: The Spanish government is to buy a small slice of national operator Telefónica in the wake of stakebuilding by Saudi operator STC; Orange Business bolsters its digital workforce with consultancy acquisition; the private equity owners of European MVNO Lebara are looking to capitalise on its recent growth; and more!

In what looks like a direct and defensive response to the recent move by Saudi Arabia-based telco group STC to acquire a 9.9% stake in Telefónica for around €2.11bn, the Spanish government has agreed to acquire a stake of up to 10% in Spain’s national operator. The move was announced by the Spanish state investor, Sociedad Estatal de Participaciones Industriales (SEPI), which will carry out the transaction (the statement is available here in Spanish). The plan has been agreed upon by the Spanish Council of Ministers, and SEPI explained that having the presence of a public shareholder in the telco group will reinforce the its shareholder stability and consequently preserve strategic capabilities of essential importance for the national interests of Spain. SEPI added that plans for a government holding were in line with the position held by several other major European countries: According to the investor, the German government holds 13.8% of Deutsche Telekom (DT)’s capital; the French government owns 13.39% in Orange; and the Italian government agreed in August to take a stake of up to 20% in Telecom Italia (TIM)’s fixed network assets. In a brief notice to the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV), Telefónica explained that it remains focused on its recently unveiled strategic plan and intends to “continue creating value for its shareholders and providing the best-in-class service for its clients.” Reuters reported that a 10% stake in the Spanish telco group is currently valued at around €2bn. Telefónica’s share price gained 2.8% to €3.66 on the Spanish stock exchange following the announcement. 

Orange Business has acquired French consultancy Expertime, which specialises in Microsoft cloud, data and AI services, for an undisclosed sum. According to Orange Business, the consultancy, which has about 165 staff (mostly in France) has “gained the highest certification levels on Microsoft technologies and solutions in public cloud, AI and data, all three areas being at the core of the Orange Business value proposition. The acquisition “significantly strengthens” the service provider’s “Microsoft dedicated practice, which supports businesses – notably SMBs – in their transition to the public cloud, thanks to the Expertime experts on Microsoft Azure.” The move is part of the digital services focus being driven by Orange Business CEO Aliette Mousnier-Lompré, who discussed the strategy in this recent TelecomTV interview

European mobile service provider Lebara is mulling a sale or IPO after growing its customer base significantly over the past few years as consumers seek more affordable communications packages, the company’s CEO Stephen Shurrock has told the Financial Times. The low-cost service provider, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that has operations in five European markets – the UK, Netherlands, Germany, France and Denmark) – has added more than 1.6 million customers in the past three years and now has about 5 million users. It is currently owned by private equity firms Triton and Alchemy. 

More than half of UK homes have access to full-fibre broadband, with the technology now available to a “record” 17 million domestic properties, according to the latest data from UK regulator Ofcom. Access levels are at the highest in Northern Ireland where 91% of homes are able to get full fibre. A total of 28% of homes and businesses (representing 4.6 million premises) are connected to full fibre, but notably this percentage is significantly higher in rural areas where takeup is 49% compared to 25% in urban locations. Another highlight from Ofcom’s latest Connected Nations report suggested a reduction in the number of premises unable to access “decent” broadband (delivering at least 10Mbit/s download and 1Mbit/s upload speeds), down by 27% to 61,000 premises. Of these, around 11,000 are expected to be connected next year via publicly funded schemes. An increased number of homes, especially in rural areas, are also taking up satellite broadband, with approximately 42,000 UK customers now connected to SpaceX’s Starlink service. In terms of mobile connectivity, Ofcom estimated that outdoor coverage provided by at least one operator has risen from 67% in 2022 to more than 85% this year. Still, most of the mobile traffic is carried over 4G, which represents 81% of total data traffic, while 5G accounts for around 17% of mobile traffic. Devices using 2G or 3G networks are in decline, down to 2.4 million compared to an estimated 5.5 million in 2022. Just 3% of all network data traffic runs on 3G, which has decreased by 44% year on year. Find out more.

Japanese telco giant SoftBank has made progress with its R&D efforts to enhance communication networks based on space technology. In a statement, it noted that via a trial of its 5G-ready cylindrical antenna for high altitude platform station (HAPS) stratospheric-based wireless communication systems conducted in Japan, it has verified coverage area optimisation technology that “maximises communication capacity across an entire communication area covered by HAPS.” The company said the area optimisation technology is “essential” for enabling capabilities of HAPS-based broadband networks, including high-capacity and high-quality communication. Part of its field trial was based on a research project that has been commissioned by the Japanese National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) for its “Beyond 5G R&D Promotion Project” in 2022. Following the test, SoftBank is determined to keep working towards realising “the practical use of HAPS” and to improve its communication network.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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