Live / Covid-19 news: How the telecoms world is dealing with the pandemic

21 April 2020 | João Marques Lima

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There were 6,514,359 cases of people infected with Covid-19 and 386,289 dead, as of 04 June 11:11am, BST. This blog is now closed, but coverage continues on the main news pages

With the world going into lockdown, Capacity will be bringing you the latest on the events that impact the telecoms sector, the market moves and how operators are answering to the crisis. To read part 1 of this blog, click here

June 4 – 84% of Organisations will continue to support work from home, but most aren’t equipped to do so securely

More than three months after Europe and the US went into lockdown the conversation is focused on when and how to open schools and shops. However, new research has shed light on attitudes towards re-opening business, concluding that 84% of organisations will continue to support work from home, despite gaps in their security infrastructure.

The 2020 Remote Work Report by Bitglass, showed 41% have not taken any steps to expand secure access for the remote workforce, and 50% are citing proper equipment as the biggest impediment to doing so. Consequently, 65% of organisations now enable personal devices to access managed applications.

“This research indicates that many organisations are not implementing the security measures necessary to protect their data in the current business environment,” said Anurag Kahol, CTO of Bitglass.

“For example, while respondents said that the pandemic has accelerated the migration of user workflows and applications to the cloud, most are not employing cloud security solutions like single sign-on (SSO), data loss prevention, zero trust network access, or cloud access security brokers. On top of that, 84% of organisations reported that they are likely to continue to support remote work capabilities even after stay at home orders are lifted. To do this safely, they must prioritise securing data in any app, any device, anywhere in the world.”

When asked what their organisations are primarily concerned with securing while employees work remotely, 65% of respondents said securing network access. This was followed by securing access to SaaS apps like Slack (55%) and bring your own device/personal devices (55%). When it comes to the most concerning threat vectors for remote work, respondents cited malware (72%) and unauthorised user access (59%).


June 3 – Vodafone commits to British SMEs 

Vodafone has launched a new “broadband rescue package” for small businesses offering free broadband with unlimited usage and free access to Microsoft 365 Business Standard’s full suite of flexible business tools for a whole six months.

Available to exiting and new SME customers in the UK, the rescue package can be taken up anytime over the next three months.

The announcement from Vodafone read: “There are more than five million small businesses in the UK, and most have had to rely on digital connectivity to survive the Covid-19 crisis so far. With no broadband bills to worry about for six months, we hope this broadband rescue package will give small business owners one less thing to worry about so they can focus on other more urgent priorities. No other UK network operator has unveiled such a significant initiative to support small businesses during this difficult and uncertain time.”


June 1 – Global smartphone sales declined 20% in Q1

New insight has confirmed that the sale of smartphones around the world declined 20.2% in the first quarter of 2020, as Covid-19 shut down economies across the world.

The latest figures – published by Gartner – demonstrate the impact of Covid-19 on the tech industry as a whole, with work by manufacturers, retailers and developers all halted. Economic uncertainly also contributed to the figures, according to Gartner’s analysis.

There is more on this story here.


May 30 – Covid drives international voice traffic up 20% while roaming traffic declines

International voice calls have replaced roaming traffic during lockdown, according to new insight published by i3forum.

While a 20% spike in international voice traffic was recorded in March, roaming traffic decreased by more than 30% in the same month. The figures were calculated using data provided by BICS, BTS, iBasis, Orange, PCCW Global, Tata Communications, Sparkle, Telefónica International Wholesale Services, and Telstra.

“Changing user behaviours, resulting from the move to remote working and ‘stay at home’ orders, have had an immediate impact on the international voice market. i3forum Insights has seen an initial spike in traffic in March then a return to regular traffic volumes in April, albeit with different patterns as people have adapted to new social and working situations. What is striking is the growth in call duration. Calls are longer and that compensated for the decline in number of calls,” said Philippe Millet, chairman of i3forum.

“The first half of 2020 has really shown the value that traditional voice delivers in challenging times. It remains critical for businesses and consumers.”

i3forum Insights works by carriers uploading their voice traffic data into the system and comparing data with the rest of the market. All data provided is fully anonymised and remains 100% confidential. The platform, based on i3forum requirements, was developed and is operated by TeleGeography, experts in managing large data sets in the carrier industry. Users can check new data against the latest figures from other anonymous participants and pull data to create custom reports.


May 29 – Aircall defies Covid to raise US$65 million Series C funding

Call centre solution Aircall has closed its Series C funding round, raising US$65 million to help keep its 5,000 customers connected during Covd-19.

A statement confirming the news, read: “These clients — many of them small businesses, non-profit organizations, and even international government entities — are using Aircall to support their communities and protect the health and safety of their employees. We see more validation than ever in our product and in our main goal: To be the most customer obsessed provider in the market.”

Promising to “radically change the role of voice in business”, to date, Aircall has raised $106 million and investors include eFounders, Draper Esprit, Balderton and NextWorld.


May 26 – London data and app use declined 58% in early lockdown

New insight released by EE showed that data and app use declined 58% in the early days of the UK’s lockdown.

The trend saw usage shift from EE’s busiest sites to places like Stevenage, which saw the largest increase in data use for communication apps at 120%.

Across the UK as a whole, EE’s network saw a 45% increase in communication app traffic, including WhatsApp, Houseparty, Skype and Teams, while voice calls lasting more than five minutes doubled, with overall voice usage up 45%.

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s consumer division, said: “Lockdown has clearly driven huge changes in the way our mobile network is being used. A 45% increase in traffic for communication apps like WhatsApp, Houseparty, Skype and Teams demonstrates the importance of staying in touch with friends, family and colleagues, while it’s also interesting to see how Network traffic is visibly shifting from cities to suburban areas.

“Fitness apps are seeing big spikes in data usage as we exercise outside more and online supermarket orders spiked massively in the early stages, and are now returning to a new ‘normal’. What’s clear is that the role of a highly reliable high speed mobile network has never been more important to our customers, and I’m pleased that the EE network continues to deliver a great performance even in these tough times,” he added.


May 21 – BT execs offer bonus cut after dividends scrapped

BT’s chief executive and finance chief have pledged to waive bonuses worth £2.2 million following the news last week that the company would suspend its dividend for the first time in 36 years, saving around £2.5 billion.

Chief executive Philip Jansen – who in March donated his salary to health charities and small businesses for six months – and finance chief Simon Lowth, made the offer to shareholders today. It is reported they are offering to defer £2.2 million in combined bonus payments, and that they had agreed to their full annual bonus for FY20/21 being deferred to shares for a further three years.

In reviewing the situation BT, which is also in talks to sell Openreach, said it will “assess whether any windfall gains have been realised as a result of any Covid-19 bounce-back”, over the coming months.


May 21 – Africa Airtel and UNICEF to provide connectivity to 133 million children and their families

UNICEF and Airtel Africa have partnered to provide an estimated 133 million school-age children with access to remote learning and mobile banking for their families.

The children, currently affected by Covid-19 school closures, live across 13 Sub-Saharan African countries, including Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar and Malawi.

They will also have the means to facilitate vital cash assistance to alleviate financial barriers for some of the most vulnerable families across the region.

UNICEF said remote learning, supported by digital tools, was a core part of its response to ensure continuity of learning for those children with access to technology at home. Airtel Africa will zero-rate select websites hosting educational content, which will provide children with remote access to digital content at no cost.

“Some effective ways to cushion families from the effects of this crisis is through providing free internet access to selected educational websites to help children keep up with their learning during the school closures and direct cash transfer programmes to reduce physical presence requirements for cash in hand exchanges,” said Raghunath Mandava, Airtel Africa CEO.

“Alongside various other Covid-19 related initiatives and support that we are providing to Governments and the community, we are glad to also collaborate with UNICEF to support children.” 


May 15 – Niger receives Hylas 4 satellite connectivity from Avanti Communications

Niger has received a Hylas 4 craft from London-based Avanti Communications to keep 10 key government sites connected during the pandemic.

The installations were completed in collaboration with the National Agency of Information Society (ANSI), the technical arm of the government of Niger responsible for coordinating ICT solutions in the Covid-19 response in Niger

The installation began in mid-April and are now nearing completion.

Avanti CEO, Kyle Whitehill, commented: “At Avanti, we are deeply concerned about the spread of the pandemic and we want to help in any way we can. The telecommunications industry has an important role to play in this global crisis and we are privileged to be able to use our satellite technology to support the Niger Government in its initiative to fight Covid-19.”

The Hylas 4 has been in service since 2018 and provides high speed connectivity to a growing customer base across broadband, enterprise, carrier and government customers. 


May 14 – Telviva upgrades softphone app for businesses post-lockdown

Telviva has updated Telviva One to support its business customers as they emerge from lockdown in South Africa.

Targeted enhancements to Telviva One, a web-based softphone application that enables users to make and receive calls from their web browsers, mean that businesses can now remain in touch with customers and support employee productivity.

“Telviva One essentially turns your web browser into your office phone in an instant,” said Steve Davies, Telviva CTO.

“We’re now going even further to create a feature rich, easy and seamless experience on both desktop and mobile devices. Telviva One is a solution for leaders who recognise the importance of customers being able to have quality conversations with the business across multiple channels at any time.”


May 14 – One-week rebate for service disruptions

DESCRIPTION M1 has extended a one-week rebate to customers affected by outages on May 12 and 13. The customers will receive a rebate for one week of service in their June bill

M1 said the first incident on 12 May impacted a specific group of customers and was resolved overnight to avoid large-scale disruption in the peak hours. The second, unrelated, incident occurred the next morning and was resolved by 2pm on the same day. The disruptions were not caused by any dated equipment, shortage of capacity or cyber-attack.

Outages have become a part of life online during Covid-19 lockdowns, with several new records set: in the third week of April outages around the world reached new record levels , despite relatively strong performance from global networks during the first weeks of Covid-19 lockdowns. The data, compiled and published by ThousandEyes, showed UK outages increased 62% and global outages 11% since week commencing April 13.

“We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience the disruption has caused to our users and thank them for their patience and understanding. Our priority now is to ensure service reliability and we are taking extra measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents. We are also cooperating fully with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) for further investigations,” said Mr Manjot Singh Mann, M1 CEO.


May 13 – Neighbour interference and connectivity failures plague lockdown internet

New insight published by Veego has uncovered the two most pressing issues for residential internet users during global Covid-19 lockdowns: a 52% increase in Wifi neighbour interference and a 42% increase in intermittent connectivity failures.

Veego noted that many of the connectivity issues were “due to bad WiFi link quality caused by improper configuration of extenders”.

“Wifi neighbour interference more than doubled, no doubt due to the increased overlapping in times of internet usage between households in close proximity – your Netflix is interfering with my Fortnite,” said Veego CTO Denis Sirov.

“Connectivity failures occurred primarily because people in Corona-induced isolation within the home are trying to reach their internet router from remote rooms where they haven’t used connected devices before. Sometimes, these rooms do not receive a good, consistent WiFi signal.”

WAN problems emanating from infrastructure deficiencies along with cloud-service problems also contributed to downgraded user experience. For example, Microsoft’s Xbox Live gaming service experienced multi-hour downtime several times during the period under study. The Veego research also noted that some legacy devices are having a noticeable, deleterious effect on home networks as the number of simultaneously engaged devices increases.


May 11 – Zyxel extends SD-WAN OS remote network to support homeworking

Zyxel Networks has updated its SD-WAN solution to help improve how IT teams and MSPs manage and monitor networks remotely.

Following the upgrade, IT teams and MSPs can more easily manage network configurations and troubleshoot issues without being on site, ensuring business as usual for those working away. The updated system features improved high availability configuration option, Command Line Interface management capabilities and zero-touch VLAN provisioning

“Remote working is not only becoming common for users, but also the people who manage and oversee the smooth running of networks,” commented Inchen Lin, AVP of Zyxel Networks’ Intelligence Cloud Center.

“The enhanced capabilities in our SD-WAN OS ensure that IT teams and MSPs can provide the same high levels of service in a remote capacity, to those who rely on the availability and stability of the network for their day to day operations,” Lin added.

The new features run across the entire range of Zyxel VPN firewalls including VPN50, VPN100, VPN300 and VPN1000 with firmware version SD-OS v10.03, ensuring companies of all sizes have the capabilities to provision and manage their networks remotely. For more information about the SD-WAN v10.03


 May 11 – One million connections initiative to help Mexicans impacted by Covid-19

A relief effort in Mexico, Oxígeno2030, is to utilise at-cost mobile connectivity so one million of Mexico’s most impacted individuals can access services by Q1 2021.

The initiative, which aims to keep people connected as they adjust to the coronavirus pandemic, is the first SaaS, multi-tenant BSS platform.

OXIO, a global connectivity-as-a-service provider, launched a virtualised multi-carrier solution for enterprises, leveraging Optiva’s BSS Platform on the public cloud. The service, OXIO BrandVNO, offers the capability to transform any enterprise worldwide into a provider of mobile connectivity, which can be easily bundled into their existing offering. 

“Our proposition is unique. We empower enterprises worldwide to complement their offerings with a branded mobile service — without the cost and complexity associated with the traditional MVNO model,” said Nicolas Girard Ph.D., CEO of OXIO.

“With Optiva BSS Platform and public cloud capabilities, our customers can easily launch their own branded service in a matter of days and immediately take advantage of their newfound status as wireless operators. Optiva helps our customers and us provide consumers with more affordable and reliable internet connections — and fuel our growth and success,” Girard added.

Oxígeno2030 was formed by OXIO, Zenda.la and Accountability Lab Mexico and uses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework to promote development through the use of mobile technologies.


 May 7  – Disney+ reports “lockdown bonanza” following EU launch

Reflecting on its first weeks of operations in Europe, Disney+ has reported a “lockdown bonanza” as it saw mobile video traffic reach seven Exabytes per month according to data from Enea. To May 5, Disney had signed up 54 million subscribers.

The analysis of the traffic from Enea is based on live data gathered from over 40 networks globally. In North America and Europe, Disney+ currently represents 1.2% to 2.2% of all mobile video traffic. Netflix - which was launched in Europe in 2012 and a few years earlier in the US - accounts for 7% to 15%.  

In terms of specific network protocols such as HTTP, Disney+ now features within the top-10 mobile video applications according to data volume across the territories in which the service has launched. As such, Disney said "the future potential of [our] streaming service is a matter of great interest to all mobile operators".


 May 7  – Ofcom delays EECC customer rights implementations

Ofcom has extended the time granted to providers to extend customer rights under the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC), by 12 months.

The delay, due to Coronavirus, will allow providers “at least 12 months from the date of our statement to make the new rights available to customers. If certain rules require very significant changes to providers’ systems, the implementation period may be longer.”

Ofcom intends to set out the specific implementation deadlines for each of the new rules, when it publishes its statement later this year.

The British regulator added that it continues to work towards transposition of the EECC with the UK Government by 21 December 2020. Its statement on implementation of the end-user rights aspects of the EECC is scheduled for September 2020, subject to government confirming its approach to EECC transposition before then.

A statement read: “We are providing this update to stakeholders in advance of our final decisions so that providers can take this into account now. Otherwise, they would need to start planning the necessary systems and process changes, which would be difficult given the current need to focus their resources on supporting people and businesses.”


May 6 – Covid-19 apps extend to transport logistics

In the race to develop effective track and trace systems around the world, the EU’s GNSS Agency has partnered with Sixfold, FoxCom and SpaceTec Partners to develop the Galileo Green Lane app.

The app is intended to support European supply chains, retailers and logistics service providers to access real-time information on delays experienced by trucks at European borders resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Leading shipment visibility provider Sixfold, application development specialists FoxCom, and consulting firm SpaceTec Partners, will work directly with the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA), the provider of the European Navigation System Galileo.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the European Commission requested Member States to designate Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) border-crossing points as ‘Green Lane’ border crossings, with the expectation that these border crossings, including any checks, should not exceed 15 minutes on internal land borders. Galileo Green Lane will support the management of transit across borders, relieving the pressure of handling goods and allowing the quick passage of critical goods such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including Covid- resistant theatre gowns and masks.

Galileo Green Lane aims to provide transparency to border authorities and freight transporters on the border crossing times at TEN-T border points. It leverages the positioning accuracy of the Galileo navigation system to locate incoming vehicles in a defined geo-fenced area surrounding critical borders. Location data generated at the border can also be combined with a geo-tagged photo to provide additional information. The solution relies on European GNSS services and infrastructure and demonstrates the resourcefulness of Galileo in crisis situations.


May 6 –  Tampnet Carrier and Megaport provide simplified cloud connectivity across Nordics

A new partnership between Tampnet Carrier and Network as a Service (NaaS) provider Megaport, will offer Tampnet customers access to more than 350 service providers including AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Oracle Cloud.

Following the partnership, Tampnet customers can now connect between metros, countries and continents, scale their business to new markets and create a multi-region network by leveraging Megaport’s Software Defined Network (SDN).

“This is exactly what is needed in the Nordic market”, says Tampnet Carrier’s MD, Cato Lammenes. “

“With direct connection via Megaport’s network Tampnet brings all the largest cloud providers closer to the Nordic market. We can quickly and easily provision a service without the usual siloed and complex configuration tasks. We can now get you almost instantly connected to world class cloud services, managed services and data centres . Customers can move their data fast and securely in our low latency and high capacity network with many optional routes in and out of the Nordics. In addition, Megaport provides a very smart on-demand platform that offers great flexibility and scalability on a consumption based model,” Lammenes added.


May 1 – SOTI joins Lifelines4LovedOnes to connect patients during pandemic

SOTI has joined the Lifelines4LovedOnes initiative, founded by TMT First, to help patients affected with COVID-19 stay connected, by bringing refurbished electronic tablets to NHS and care home patients who are cut off from family and friends.

The devices are refurbished by TMT First, an authorised Samsung repair and service partner and initiator of the scheme.

SOTI supplied licenses for its Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) software, SOTI MobiControl, free of charge, to manage the devices remotely and ensure data security and privacy is maintained.

Each donated device is cleaned, wiped of data and repaired if necessary, before being sent to where it’s needed most. Video call technology is pre-installed with the help of SOTI MobiControl, which also ensures GDPR compliance.


April 30 – Demand for network parts up 25% Feb to April

A supplier has noted a 25% increase in global demand for network equipment throughout February, March and April, as telecoms operators look to manage supply chain disruption and fluctuating traffic levels.

The insight, shared by TXO Systems, further found that the new equipment requirements are primarily for network assets for telcos and original equipment manufacturers, including both legacy and modern parts, rather than 5G or fibre-related.

Kieran Crawford, group sales director at TXO Systems said: “During this current environment, operators must ensure that their networks can run reliably. Over the past three months we’ve seen that they are focusing less on purchasing equipment for new deployments of 5G or FTTx, and are replenishing their stock of current equipment to support resilience and mitigate against network outages.

“The sharpest rise in requests we’ve seen has been for optical modules, which can increase network capacity and ensure that networks can handle high and unpredictable traffic demands,” Crawford added.


April 24 – LINX notes traffic record, confirms new partnership

LINX noted record-breaking peak traffic of 5.26 Tbps in March 2020, driven by growing internet usage due to Covid-19 lockdowns.

To help cope with resulting demand for remote peering, Epsilon has been named a Platinum partner by LINX for supporting regional and global network service providers and managed service providers to efficiently grow their presence with LINX and manage surging IP traffic demand.

“Increased internet usage is driving the demand for remote peering. We are enabling our customers to scale-up to meet growing demand, ensuring they can continue to deliver an optimised end-user experience,” said Mark Daley, director of digital strategy and business development at Epsilon.

Similar traffic patterns have been recorded by other exchanges. For more on how the internet has performed over the last six weeks, read this analysis: click here .


April 25 – Avanti recruits public figures to boost staff morale

Satellite tech firm Avanti has recruited athletes, entertainers and business leaders to inspire its employees who are working remotely.

The At Home With mini-series will feature professional boxer Isaac Chamberlain; leadership coach and education  champion Drew Povey; Vicky Wright the Scottish curling champion and NHS nurse; and Sally Orange, an ultra-marathon runner and former soldier. 

Interviewed by Avanti CEO Kyle Whitehill via video call, each week the guest star will share their own story and offer insight on how they maintain their sporting discipline while remaining at home.

The weekly episodes will air over the next three months and Avanti expects employees from nine different countries to watch.

Avanti Group HR director, Debbie Mavis, said: “The current lockdown situation and the speed at which we have had to adapt to home working has created an opportunity for us to bring our people together in different and original ways. With sports people some of the most challenged in operating business as usual, who better to inspire and engage with our teams on creative thinking and problem-solving at this time.


April 23 – UK authorities remove 83 malicious web scams

 A new cyber scam reporting service launched by the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the City of London Police has removed 83 malicious scams exploiting the Covid-19 epidemic in its first 24 hours of operation.

As of noon on April 22, the NCSC had received 5,151 reports of phishing emails using coronavirus as a lure to trick people into online harm.

“The immediate take-up of our new national reporting service shows that the UK is united in its defence against callous attempts to trick people online,” said NCSC CEO Ciaran Martin.

“While we have not seen a rise in email scams in the past month, coronavirus is the top lure currently used to conduct cyber crime, exploiting public unease and fear of the pandemic.”

Suspicious emails can be forwarded to report@phishing.gov.uk

Forwarding dubious-looking emails of any stripe – not just coronavirus-related – to the reporting inbox will trigger an automated process that tests the validity of the contents and linked site. Any found to be phishing scams can then be quickly dealt with.


April 23 – Glide Wifi to connect NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol

Glide is to provide ultra-fast broadband connectivity and fibre infrastructure to connect those working at the UK’s NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol. The connectivity, delivered to staff accommodation for no additional cost, is part of an existing contract with UWE Bristol, which has been ongoing since 2012

One of seven temporary critical care hospitals across the country, Nightingale Hospital Bristol is located on the Frenchay campus of the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) in Bristol and will comprise 300 intensive care beds.

Glide will provide wired and wireless broadband to between 300 and 800 key workers, who are expected to move into the accommodation shortly.

Richard Jeffares, Glide Group CTO, commented: “These key workers go above and beyond, fighting on the front line against Covid-19, so we are proud to be able to support the NHS in this critical operation, by providing seamless connectivity to key workers at the new NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol. We have invested heavily in our core network capacity in the last 12 months and are confident in our ability to cope with any increase in network traffic. We are pleased to play our small part in supporting the NHS and other critical workers around the country.”


April 22 – Ekinops’ bandwidth fix connects municipality to major data centres

Ekinops has increased the bandwidth of its single fiber network to assist local French telecom provider, Chartres Métropole Innovations Numériques (CM’IN), in keeping the city of Chartres online. Located 90 miles south-west of Paris, Chartres has a population of 38,000.

CM’IN engaged Ekinops to increase the bandwidth of its single fiber network, connecting the municipality to two major Parisian datacenters with 100G capability, and enabling CM’IN to continue developing its voice, hosting, and TV capture and broadcast services without sacrificing network performance.

Rhe upgrade, to enhance residential and enterprise broadband services, used Ekinops’ Flexrate PM_200FRS02-SF optical transport solution together with the PM_100G-AGG aggregation module.


April 21 – WHO, ITU, UNICEF call no telcos to help plug information gap

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), with support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), have called on telecommunication companies to work with them to help provide information to those without internet access.

The collaborations will allow people to receive texts directly on their mobile phones with vital health messaging from various official bodies to help protect them from COVID-19.

A release from the ITU said the alerts will “will reach billions of people that aren’t able to connect to the internet for information”.

A statement continued: “Now more than ever, technology must ensure that everyone can access the information they need. The collaboration will start in the Asia Pacific region and then roll out globally. The goal is to reach everyone with vital health messages, whatever their connectivity level. An estimated 3.6 billion people remain offline, with most people who are unconnected living in low-income countries, where an average of just two out of every ten people are online.”

Initially due to launch in the APAC region, the call to action is for “all telecommunication companies worldwide”.


April 20 – Orange sets AGM for 19 May, cuts dividend 30%

Orange is to hold its annual general meeting on 19 May at the firm’s Paris HQ, but will reduce dividend payments to shareholders this year.

In compliance with local restrictions imposed during France’s Covid-19 lockdown, the meeting will be broadcast on the firm’s website from 16:00 local time. Shareholders will only be able to exercise their right to vote remotely ahead of the shareholders’ meeting and all minutes will be published as usual.

In the same announcement, the board reduced the 2019 dividend from €0.70 to €0.50 per share, meaning a €0.40 balance, which remains to be paid, will be reduced to €0.20. The payment date remains unchanged at 4 June 2020.

For the period 2020-2023, Orange said “the objective to distribute a dividend of €0.70 per share will be reviewed at a later date in light of the evolving situation”.

“The Board of Directors has provided for the right to offer shareholders the option of being paid a 2020 interim dividend in Orange shares,” the announcement continued.

Stéphane Richard, chairman and CEO of the Orange Group said: “Based on currently available information, Orange does not expect a significant deviation from its 2020 objectives, but we are closely monitoring the situation and its developments. The important role played by the telecoms sector during this crisis to ensure the continued functioning of our economy and society as a whole confirms the strategic character of our activities. Beyond this, the collective commitment of our employees, the solidity of our financial situation and the relevance of our strategic action plans will allow Orange to face up to this unprecedented crisis”.


April 18 – Poland latest country to delay 5G auction

Poland has become the latest in a growing list of countries to delays its 5G auction in response to Coronavirus.

The national regulator UKE gave no other details and no indication of a new timetable, however, Wojciech Jabczynski, spokesman for Orange Polska, a unit of France’s Orange, said: “We are surprised, because all previous signs from the regulator’s side were such that the auction will go on schedule.”

UKE announced the auction of 3,400-3,800 MHz frequencies for 5G services spectrum in March. With a deadline of 23 April, it put 80 MHz bands out to tender, valid until 30 June 2035, at a starting prices of PLN 450 million for each band.


April 17 – MTN Group, Vodakom and Telkom granted additional spectrum in South Africa

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa has granted additional temporary radio frequency spectrum (RFS) in response to demand created by Covid-19.

The authority said it had considered applications for temporary radio frequency spectrum assignments in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2300MHz, 2600MHz and 3500MHz bands, including the use of Television Whitespaces (TVWS) “in an effort to ensure connectivity for all during the National State of Disaster period”. In total 17 were granted across various frequencies to MTN Group, Vodakom and Telkom.

“I would really like to express my deepest gratitude to all applicants and licensees alike; and I believe the spectrum will be used efficiently as well as optimally for the benefit of all South Africans. This will indeed bridge the communications divide during this difficult period of our lifetime," said ICASA acting chairperson, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.


April 16 – NEC connects Dutch Covid-19 medical centre

NEC Europe Ltd has supplied a mobile coverage solution to one of the busiest medical centers in Netherlands for ICU patients with Covid-19.

The solution, supplied to Vodafone will also be O-RAN compliant through a software upgrade in the future.

The Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam expanded its intensive care unit, converting an existing wing of the hospital into an intensive care unit where there was an urgent need for an indoor mobile coverage solution. Vodafone Business team worked with NEC along with its partner Allinq and together have made this operational in record time.

Erwin van den Heuvel, manager of ICT services at Erasmus MC, said: “It is precisely in these times that being able to work remotely and also being available by phone are extremely important. This applies to our employees, but certainly also to our patients and their family members. I'm glad the service became available very quickly.”


13 April – British telcos agree to boost NHS staff connectivity

As many as 14 internet and telco companies have entered into an agreement with the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to provide additional connectivity and service support to NHS staff.

The firms include: BT/EE, Openreach, Sky, talktalk, Virgin Media, O2, Three, Vodafone, Cityfibre, Gigaclear, Tesco Moble, giffgaff, Hyperoptice and KCom.

The DCMS four-part plan to support NHS staff will see each firm commit to:

  • offer identified NHS frontline staff who are existing customers mobile data access, voice calls and text at no extra cost on personal mobiles used for work;
  • prioritise broadband upgrades for NHS clinicians working from home;
  • improve connectivity in care homes where possible;
  • provide “generous data allowances” for vulnerable customers who depend on mobile connections, so they can have remote conversations without a fixed broadband connection.

Although there is no official deadline in place, DCMS has put a timeline of “several weeks” on the project.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “These welcome commitments will mean frontline NHS staff can use personal phones for work purposes without limits or extra charges, allow GPs to carry out consultations and transfer large files from home, and help vulnerable people who depend most on the NHS for care.”


13 April – Proximus halts 5G deployments following town’s health fears

Proximus is to hold a town hall with residents of a Belgian town who have raised objections to the installation of its 5G technology.

According to local reports, Proximus installed 5G light technology in the university town of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve without “prior consultation” with local authorities.

Given the conspiracy-fuelled resistance to 5G technology that has been seen worldwide, the municipality deemed the rollout as “bad timing”.

With a population of just over 30,000, Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve was selected as a smart city “live lab pilot project” by Proximus in 2018. The firm engaged with municipal authorities, the police, the inhabitants’ association, ORES, Letsgocity and Be-Mobile for the project.

Since 1 April, the Proximus 5G light network has been live in 30 Belgian municipalities but not Brussels.

A statement posted by the City of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve on 14 April, read: “The City of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve has just obtained from Proximus the answer to the question it has been asking since March 31: the deployment of 5G via the antennas present on its territory has been stopped.

The municipal college is delighted to have been heard!

“The operator has also promised to participate in a public information session, during which he will explain his project to citizens. It was also a requirement of the City.”


10 April – Indian mobile operators could lose US$1.97 million in revenues

India’s three largest mobile operators could see US$1.97 million wiped off their combined 2020 revenues as the country’s lockdown – to date the biggest in the world – prevents people from topping up prepaid accounts.

Reliance Jio (NSE: RELIANCE), Vodafone Idea (NSE: IDEA) and Bharti Airtel (NSE: BHARTIARTL) are likely to be worst hit, as more than 90% of customers in India with pre-paid accounts are prevented from visiting stores where they can top up.

However stock performance has yet to be hit. Reliance Jio saw its stock rise 14% following the news last month that Facebook was looking at a minority stake in the company.

Shares in Vodafone Idea were up 3.53% on Thursday 16 April, despite recent financial problems. But the strongest performer was Bharti Airtel, which has surged 17% year to date to become the fifth most valuable listed company in terms of market capitalisation.

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