Virgin Media’s chief to be named CEO of merged company after tie-up with O2: Sky News

(Reuters) – Virgin Media’s boss, Lutz Schuler, will be named on Wednesday as the chief executive of the British broadband company’s joint venture with the Telefonica SA’s UK mobile network O2, Sky News reported on Tuesday.

Patricia Cobian, O2’s finance chief, will be appointed to the equivalent role at the joint Venture, Sky News reported citing city sources.

Virgin Media and Telefonica did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Virgin Media, owned by Liberty Global Plc, is awaiting regulatory approval for its 31 billion-pound ($42.86 billion) tie-up with O2, according to Sky.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has a statutory deadline of late May for making a judgment on the deal, the report added.

LG scraps its smartphone business as losses mount

LG Electronics said on Monday it would close down its loss-making smartphone business.

In January, the South Korean electronics giant said it was looking at all options for the division after almost six years of losses totalling around $4.5bn (£3.3bn).

LG had made many innovations including ultra-wide angle cameras, rising to third largest smartphone maker in 2013.

But bosses said the mobile phone market had become “incredibly competitive”.

While Samsung and Apple are the two biggest players in the smartphone market, LG has suffered from its own hardware and software issues.

As LG struggled with losses it had held talks to sell part of the business but these fell through.

It still ranks as the third most popular brand in North America but has slipped in other markets. LG phones are still fairly common in its domestic South Korean market.

“LG’s strategic decision to exit the incredibly competitive mobile phone sector will enable the company to focus resources in growth areas such as electric vehicle components, connected devices, smart homes, robotics, artificial intelligence and business-to-business solutions, as well as platforms and services,” it said in a statement. 

Last year it shipped 23 million phones, which compares with 256 million for Samsung, according to research firm Counterpoint.

The smartphone business is the smallest of LG’s five divisions, accounting for just 7.4% of revenue. Currently its global mobile phone market share is about 2%.

It has been innovating its phones to compete with its bigger rivals, with last year’s launch of the T-shaped Wing, a smartphone with a larger screen which swivels out to reveal a second, smaller one underneath.

Electric cars and TVs

LG still has a strong consumer electronics business, particularly with home appliances and televisions. LG is the world’s second best-selling TV brand after Samsung.

And last year it launched a joint venture with automotive supplier Magna International that will make key components for electric cars.

LG’s phone inventory will continue to be available for sale, and it will still provide service support and software updates for existing customers. The divisions is expected to be wound down by the end of July.

“Moving forward, LG will continue to leverage its mobile expertise and develop mobility-related technologies such as 6G to help further strengthen competitiveness in other business areas,” a spokesman added.

Analysts said South Korean rival Samsung and Chinese companies such as Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi are likely to benefit the most from LG’s exit.

Other well-known mobile brands such as Nokia, HTC and Blackberry have also struggled with sales but have yet to disappear completely.

Source: BBC

Verizon signs first private 5G contract in Europe

(Reuters) – Verizon Communications Inc, one of the largest U.S. telecom companies, on Thursday signed its first private 5G contract in Europe with Associated British Ports (ABP) to deploy the mobile network at the Port of Southampton.

Port of Southampton, on England’s south coast, is one of the largest ports for cars and cruises, handling about 900,000 cars and millions of cruise passengers annually. It will also become the first mainland port in the UK to have private 5G.

Verizon in October struck here deals with Microsoft and Nokia for deploying private 5G. In international markets, where Verizon doesn’t have its own network, it is working with Nokia to build private networks for manufacturing and logistics companies.

Private 5G networks remove the need for businesses to jostle for speed with others on a public network and help enable data-intensive applications that use computer vision, augmented reality and machine learning to increase productivity.

The new tech will help the port to enable the use of real-time analytics, asset tracking, autonomous guided vehicles and safety monitoring.

“We have been able to equip ABP to take advantage of the immediate benefits private 5G offers, and … take full advantage of new technology applications and real-time analytics which will digitally transform its services in the future,” said Tami Erwin, CEO, Verizon Business.

Mastercard to invest $100 million in Airtel Africa

(Reuters) – Mastercard Inc will invest $100 million in Airtel Africa’s mobile money operations valuing the business at $2.65 billion, the London-listed company said on Thursday.

Mastercard will hold a minority stake in Airtel Mobile Commerce, in line with Airtel Africa’s plan to monetise the mobile money business by selling up to a 25% stake in the unit, the company said.

Ericsson opens lab in Canada to test new 5G tech

(Reuters) – Ericsson is opening a lab in Ottawa, Canada, to work with customers and partners on new 5G radio access networks (RAN) technologies, the company said on Wednesday.

The Swedish telecoms equipment maker said the technologies would include Open RAN, which would allow mobile operators to build networks that are not tied to a vendor.

“This initiative will help to test the limits of 5G connectivity, working closely with operators and enterprise customers globally, as the industry continues to adopt more open architectures,” said Executive Vice President Fredrik Jejdling.

Ericsson is working with service providers such as KDDI, Orange, Softbank Corp and Turkcell, as well as partners such as Intel and Nvidia.

Nokia last year became here the first major telecoms equipment maker to commit to adding open interfaces in its products that will allow mobile operators to build networks not linked to a vendor.

MTN Group global sourcing and supply chain awards

The Global Sourcing and Supply Chain (GSSC) division of MTN Group has hosted its second Supplier Awards event to recognise suppliers and partners for their hard work and delivery of exceptional services across the MTN footprint.

This year’s virtual event, hosted by Group Executive and Chief Procurement office, Dirk Karl, was centred around three key pillars – Innovation, Collaboration and Excellence.

As we reflect on 2020, and the challenges presented by the spread of COVID-19, I would particularly like to commend our suppliers and partners on their agility and resilience, that ensured uninterrupted service to the MTN Group. It is only through strong partnerships and the support of dependable suppliers that MTN can ensure that everyone has the benefits of a modern connected life,” says Dirk.

MTN Group COO – Jens Schulte-Bockum joined the session where he congratulated the supplier partners and shared MTN’s recently announced Ambition 2025 plan with them. Group Chief Technology and Information Officer Charles Molapisi and Executive Group Consumer Enzo Scarcella –also delivered MTN’s plan around Ambition 2025. They also called out to all the supplier partners for their continuous support and commitment to deliver on MTN’s belief i.e. everyone deserves the benefit of a modern connected life. Verizon’s Chief Sustainability Officer, James Gowen, also attended the session, speaking on sustainable supply chain.

16 winners across nine categories were announced:

2020 Rise & Shine Award – recognizes our Rising Star Supplier for 2020:

  • Winner – Dell Technologies

2020 Digital Excellence Award: Most supportive of GSSC digital transformation:

  • Winner – Oracle

2020 Most Collaborative Supplier Award: Most responsive and supportive through the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Technology Category Winner – Ericsson
  • Commercial Category Winner – Mobicel

2020 Outstanding Quality & Delivery Performance: Best performance in delivery, support, performance, quality and risk:

  • Technology Category Winner –FLYTXT
  • Commercial Category Winner – ZTE

2020 Commercial Excellence Award: Best provider of competitive pricing and costing transparency:

  • Technology Category Winner –Tecnotree
  • Commercial Category Winner – Valid

2020 Best Account Management Performance Award: Best account management support, flexibility and ease of doing business, including, timely reporting:

  • Technology Category Winner – Huawei
  • Commercial Category Winner – IDEMIA

2020 Supplier Innovation Award:  Most innovative and solutions driven supplier, who demonstrates and shares best practice:

  • Technology Category Winner – Tarana represented by United Wireless
  • Commercial Category Winner – Thales

2020 Performance Excellence Award : Most consistent in terms of delivery throughout the year:

  • Technology Category Winner – Ericsson
  • Commercial Category Winner – Omnicom Group

2020 Supplier of the Year: Best overall performer across several metrics, including quality, delivery & support, account management, performance and innovation:

  • Technology Category Winner – Deloitte
  • Commercial Category Winner – Valid

MTN congratulates all the winners of the GSSC supplier awards and looks forward to greater collaboration and partnership as we focus on our intent to provide leading digital solutions for Africa’s progress.

Source: MTN Blog

Safaricom launches East Africa’s first 5G network

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s biggest telecoms operator Safaricom has started trials for 5G high-speed internet network using technology from Nokia and Huawei, it said.

Safaricom, part owned by South Africa’s Vodacom and Britain’s Vodafone want to boost its fast-growing data business, amid increasing demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people to work and learn from home.

The trials, which started with four Kenyan cities and towns on Friday, will be expanded to 150 sites in nine urban areas in the next 12 months, Safaricom said in a statement.

Safaricom said last year it would consider Huawei for its 5G network rollout. The United States has urged countries not to include Huawei in their 5G plans, citing security concerns, which Huawei has denied.

Safaricom is the market leader in the mobile data segment in Kenya, with 67.5% of total users as of last September, statistics from the regulator Communications Authority of Kenya showed.

The company has a 35.6% share of the small but growing internet to home and office by fibre market, CAK said.

The new 5G network will give consumers internet speeds of 700 megabits per second, more than three times faster than the current 4G network, the company said.

It will also allow Safaricom to offer an alternative service for homes and offices in areas which are not currently covered by the its fibre network, the company said.

The technology will also support far many more devices to connect to the internet in a given area, compared with the existing network.

Chile fast-tracking 5G roll-out, but with tight rules on security, official says

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile is fast-tracking an ambitious plan to roll out a 5G mobile technology network across most of the country within two years, a senior official told Reuters, but will assure strong oversight at a time of simmering global tensions over cybersecurity.

With the United States and China at odds over cybersecurity and data protection, Chile, which counts both countries as top trade partners, will keep doors open to any company that adheres to its strict rules, Telecommunications Undersecretary Pamela Gidi told Reuters.

“As long as (the regulations) are respected, we neither have nor are we going to influence the supply chain nor the nationality of the companies,” she said.

Fifth-generation technology networks are expected to power everything from high-speed video transmissions to self-driving cars. The long battle over the safety of critical communications technology led Washington to blacklist dozens of Chinese firms, including telecoms equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co.

The blistering two-year timetable would put Chile well ahead of regional neighbors, and Gidi said she hoped it would attract Amazon Web Services. The Inc unit has long toyed with the idea of installing a southern cone data center in Chile or Argentina.

“We think obviously (5G deployment) can help in the decision of Amazon and other companies that in the future decide settle in Chile,” she said.

WOM, a mobile telephone brand launched by London-based investment firm Novator Partners, won a government tender in February to establish a 5G spectrum in Chile, in addition to Spain-based Movistar and the Chilean telecoms firm Entel.

Chilean market analysts have speculated that WOM will hire Huawei, a leader in the sector, to provide the necessary technology.

WOM did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Huawei declined to comment, but has repeatedly denied U.S. allegations that it is a security risk and says it abides with local laws in the countries in which it operates.

Gidi said WOM was free to choose how best to roll-out the technology within the terms of its contract.

“We give freedom to the companies that concession the spectrum to make their commercial decisions freely provided the (cybersecurity) technical standards are respected.”

US ratchets up pressure on Chinese telecom firms

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking to strip three Chinese telecom firms of their US operating licenses.

China Unicom Americas, Pacific Networks and ComNet had failed to explain their links to Beijing, the FCC said. 

The US communications watchdog has long argued those links could pose a national security risk.

The move signals that US president Joe Biden is likely continue Donald Trump’s tough approach on Chinese tech firms. 

Expelled from US

The FCC voted unanimously on Wednesday to revoke the licenses of the three companies, a move that could see them expelled from the US market. 

The companies were asked in April last year to address concerns over the their links to the Chinese government, which the FCC claimed could leave them vulnerable to its “exploitation, influence, and control”. 

But while the companies have tried to address the FCC’s concerns, it has not accepted their explanations.

“The threat to our networks from entities aligned with Communist China is one that we must address head on, and I am pleased that the FCC continues to show the strength and resolve necessary to meet this menace,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said in a statement.

China Unicom is a unit of one China’s three major telecommunications networks. 

Pacific Networks resells international voice and data services to US operators, while its subsidiary ComNet provides a variety of mobile services, including SIM cards and international calling cards. 

The FCC granted approvals for the three companies to operate in the US more than a decade ago, when there was less concern in the US about Chinese technology companies. 

More scrutiny 

Separately, the Commerce Department said it had served subpoenas on multiple Chinese firms which operate in the US, to see if they pose a national security risk.

The move followed a Trump-era executive order, which sought to secure telecommunications and technology supply chain. 

The subpoenas will gather information to “allow us to make a determination for possible action that best protects the security of American companies, American workers, and US national security,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.

“Beijing has engaged in conduct that blunts our technological edge and threatens our alliances,” she added. 

The department did not name any companies.

AT&T raises subscriber adds forecast on HBO Max as streaming booms

AT&T Inc said on Friday it expects global subscribers of between 120 million and 150 million for HBO Max and HBO by the end of 2025, raising its forecast as more people turn to streaming services for entertainment on the go.

In October 2019, the company had said it expected to add 75 million to 90 million subscribers for the same period.

The forecast raise comes as HBO Max, which includes 10,000 hours of content from WarnerMedia brands and libraries such as Warner Bros, New Line Cinema and Cartoon Network, competes in a crowded streaming landscape dominated by Netflix Inc, Walt Disney Co-owned Disney+ and Inc’s Prime Video.

The company also expects to launch an advertising-supported (AVOD) version of HBO Max in the United States in June.

AT&T expects its HBO business unit revenues to more than double over the next 5 years.

The company’s shares were up nearly 1% before the bell.