Rakuten Symphony forges new partnerships with Salam and Zain in Saudi Arabia

Two Saudi service providers have signed deals with Rakuten Symphony as they look towards their next generation of mobile networks.

Salam has signed a strategic alliance framework agreement that will see Rakuten Symphony provide Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) and network planning, implementation and operation services while Zain KSA has signed an MoU to enable strategic collaboration in building next-generation telecommunications networks based on open standards and network infrastructure.

Under the Salam agreement, Rakuten Symphony will provide platforms, expertise and services relating to 4G and 5G Open RAN technology. The alliance will allow for delivery of software, hardware, service delivery platforms and managed services in several areas, including e-commerce, fintech, mobile banking, big data and digital content.

Ahmed Al-Anqari, CEO, Salam, said: “Our strategic alliance with Rakuten will power Salam’s ambition to transform our existing mobile offering with richer customer experiences and unlock new possibilities for Saudi Arabia’s digital generation in support of the Kingdom’s digital transformation journey.”

Under the MoU signed with Zain KSA at Mobile World Congress 2023, Rakuten Symphony will deliver mobile network services through the use of open technology that will facilitate wireless infrastructure. The firms will collaborate on a blueprint for a cloud-native, fully virtualised, new-generation radio access solution architecture, which will be Open RAN 4G and 5G-based with advanced automation capabilities.

Zain KSA Chief Technology Officer, Abdulrahman Al-Mufadda, said: “This collaboration will leverage and maximise the strengths of Zain KSA and Rakuten to accelerate innovation and drive the Saudi ICT sector toward achieving Saudi Vision 2030’s goals to transform the Kingdom into a digital hub that fosters a digital economy and hyper-connected society.”


Egyptian govt looks to sell 10% stake in Telecom Egypt


The shares will reportedly be made available to both foreign and domestic investors

This week, sources speaking to Reuters report that the government is looking to offload a 10% of its 80% stake national network operator Telecom Egypt.

At its currently share price, this stake would be worth around $150 million.

According to the report, the government will be open to both domestic and foreign investors.

The news of a stake sale should come as no real surprise. The Egyptian government is going through something of a financial crisis, having become an indirect victim of the Russian invasion of Ukraine when investors quickly withdrawing around $20 billion in foreign capital at the start of the conflict. The resulting dollar scarcity left the government on shaky financial footing, resulting in an agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a loan of $3 billion late last year.

In part due to these financial troubles, the Egyptian government has placed a renewed focus on monetising state-held assets, aiming to raise $10 billion annually for the next four years through various sales.

Back in October, it appeared likely that one such sale would be to the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), having initiated talks to purchase 20% of Telecom Egypt’s stake in Vodafone Egypt. As the year drew to a close, these discussions had evolved to encompass a bigger stake purchase, rising first to 25% and finally to the full 45% stake held by Telecom Egypt.

By last month, however, these discussions had reached something of an impasse, with the Egyptian government seeking to sell at the share’s improved price, while the QIA was insistent on moving forward with the company’s earlier valuation.

These discussions are still ongoing.

In related news, Vodafone Group itself transferred ownership of its 55% stake in Vodafone Egypt to Vodacom Group at the end of 2022.

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Also in the news:
Viasat–Inmarsat merger gets provisional greenlight from CMA
Verizon shuffles executive team in search of growth
Ericsson to pay DoJ $206.7m over bribery scandal

Ericsson signs private 5G reseller deal with South Africa’s Comsol

Ericsson has signed a reseller agreement with South African service provider Comsol to provide the Ericsson Private 5G solution; this will enable Comsol to expand its enterprise business within South Africa’s mining industry.

Comsol, which describes itself as a leading provider of guaranteed, dedicated and high-speed, last-mile connectivity and private networks, will receive the right to resell the high-speed wireless networking solution to customers across South Africa’s mining industry.

With Ericsson’s high-end connectivity solution and Comsol’s expertise in mining and systems integration, this collaboration is set to help the nation’s mining industry improve worker safety, increase operational efficiency, and realize its sustainability goals.

Ericsson Private 5G is Ericsson’s next-generation private network solution providing secure and reliable 4G and 5G connectivity through its single server dual mode core. Built for business operations, the solution comes pre-integrated to ensure rapid time to use and turning on advanced and intelligent operations in any environment.

Helping the mining industry gain robust 4G/LTE and 5G standalone (SA) connectivity, the solution will also help Comsol’s customers optimize and simplify business operations through data creation, collection, and analysis. This solution will enable Comsol to provide reliable and secure communication while connecting people, industrial sites and devices.

Ericsson has successfully delivered a proof of concept (PoC) implementing the Ericsson Private 5G solution as a pre-packaged standalone implementation of the Ericsson Dual Mode Core, which supports end-to-end cellular data-only services focusing primarily on enterprise applications.

The Ericsson Private 5G solution enables 5G standalone (SA) connectivity with a low carbon footprint and low lead time. Comsol will utilize the PoC solution to experiment and test various use cases for mining and other industries, including augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, and fixed wireless access.

Private 5G rollout seems to be something of a trend in South Africa lately. Among recent announcements, we reported late last year that operator MTN plans to build private 5G networks for mines and ports.


Ericsson resolves DPA violations with guilty plea

Ericsson is pleading guilty to a number of deferred charges from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) arising from offences committed before 2017.

The allegations indicated possible corruption among salespeople and consultants, and were based on irregular expense claims that may have been bribe payments to terrorist groups in order to circumvent Iraqi customs.

The plea will also see Ericsson hand over a fine of US$206,728,848 to the DOJ, concluding the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) signed by the two parties in 2019 to resolve Ericsson’s various declared violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), committed across several of its markets between 2010 and 2016.

Since Ericsson entered the DPA in 2019, the DOJ has brought no new criminal misconduct charges or allegations against the vendor, and this remains the case at the DPA’s conclusion. However, the DOJ did inform Ericsson on two occasions (October 2021 and March 2022) that it had made non-criminal violations of the DPA by failing to submit relevant documentation by required deadlines, as well as failing to provide salient information to the DOJ regarding its 2019 internal investigation of its activities in Iraq.

The DPA terms stipulate that the DOJ has unilateral authority both to decide whether Ericsson has breached the agreement, and to prosecute the company in the event of any violation. Accordingly, Ericsson’s guilty plea relates to the FCPA violations to which it admitted under the DPA.

Börje Ekholm, CEO of Ericsson since 2017, hailed the step as a “resolution” of the issue which would help drive “cultural change across the company.” He claimed that Ericsson had learned from its “historical misconduct” and would “transform [its] culture” to become a leader in how we conduct our business”, implementing “stringent controls and improved governance, ethics and compliance.”

Ericsson’s internal 2019 investigation did not find that the firm had made or was responsible for making payments to any terrorist organisations. The vendor carried out further probes across 2022 which upheld this finding.

The DOJ noted that Ericsson had “significantly enhanced its compliance program and internal accounting controls through structural and leadership changes.”


HAPS takes off again in Saudi Arabia

AALTO HAPS, an Airbus subsidiary, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enter a strategic partnership with STC Group, the Saudi digital enabler in the region, that will involve introducing high altitude platform station (HAPS)-based solutions to Saudi Arabia.

AALTO HAPS is an Airbus subsidiary that provides services from its stratospheric Zephyr solar-powered aircraft for mobile connectivity, platform mobility, earth observation, and government applications.

STC Group will have access to AALTO’s solutions when the company rolls out commercial services by the end of 2024. Those solutions will enable STC to expand its geographical coverage to rural and remote areas currently unconnected, improving service quality. In addition, HAPS solutions can serve to augment coverage during critical events and can be deployed quickly and easily in case of natural disasters.

AALTO’s Zephyr HAPS flies in the stratosphere, above conventional air traffic, and provides low latency, direct-to-device 4G/5G services, acting as a tower in the sky with the capability to complement terrestrial networks.

It has a coverage of 7,500 square kilometres which is the equivalent of up to 250 towers on the ground. In areas of lower population densities or difficult terrain, Zephyr integrates seamlessly in the mobile operators’ networks and, says AALTO, becomes the right technical and economic solution to expand the edge of coverage of those mobile networks.

This isn’t the first time HAPS and Saudi Arabia have been in the news. As we reported at the time, earlier this year UK company Stratospheric Platforms Limited (SPL), a partner of German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom, successfully trialled pioneering technology that provides 5G network coverage from the stratosphere in Saudi Arabia.


Viasat–Inmarsat merger gets provisional greenlight from CMA

Press Release

The decision comes after a Phase 2 review revealed Viasat and Inmarsat will likely face significant competition from both emerging and established players as the sector expands

Satellite communications firms Viasat and Inmarsat – which agreed to merge in November 2021 – supply businesses globally with satellite connectivity that enables services such as internet, email, and video calling, including for use in aircraft.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) referred the deal to an in-depth Phase 2 inquiry after identifying competition concerns during its initial, Phase 1, investigation.

Over the past 4 months, an independent CMA panel has gathered and scrutinised a wide range of evidence in order to better understand the sector, as well as the potential impact of the deal. This included internal documents from Viasat and Inmarsat, as well as the companies’ competitors (including their plans for future expansion); evidence from airlines; the CMA’s own analysis of sector conditions – and how these could change.

In a Phase 2 review, the panel considers whether it is more likely than not that a deal will lessen competition – a higher threshold than Phase 1. Accordingly, some mergers that are referred to Phase 2 will ultimately be cleared.

The CMA’s investigation into the Viasat/Inmarsat deal has provisionally found that, while the companies compete closely in the aviation sector – specifically in the supply of satellite connections for onboard wifi – the deal does not substantially reduce competition for services provided on flights used by UK customers.

The CMA’s investigation has found that the satellite sector is expanding rapidly – a trend the evidence suggests is likely to continue. This is due to increased demand for satellite connectivity, driven in large part by the ever-growing use of the internet by businesses and consumers both at home and whilst travelling.

The satellite industry has seen a number of new players entering – or planning to enter – the sector, including Starlink (operated by SpaceX), which is rapidly increasing its presence in the provision of satellite connections to aircraft. During our investigation, the firm has launched a significant number of additional satellites and won its first contract with a European airline, airBaltic.

Established competitors, such as Panasonic and Intelsat, are also investing and entering into new partnerships. For example, both firms have signed agreements with recent entrant OneWeb to use its satellite fleet to enhance their offerings to airlines.

Richard Feasey, chair of the independent inquiry group carrying out the Phase 2 investigation, said:

“This is an evolving and rapidly expanding sector, in which there have been significant developments even during the course of our 4-month investigation. We see this continuing as demand for satellite connectivity increases.

While Viasat and Inmarsat compete closely, the evidence suggests that the merged company will face significant competition in the coming years – from both emerging players like Starlink and from established firms like Intelsat and Panasonic.

This competition has led us to provisionally conclude that airlines and their UK customers will not be adversely affected by the deal.

Today’s findings are provisional, and the CMA will now consult on its findings and listen to any further views before reaching a final decision.”

The CMA welcomes responses from interested parties to its provisional findings by 21 March 2023. These will be considered ahead of the CMA issuing its final report, which is due by 30 March 2023.

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Also in the news:
AT&T signs up to use Frontier’s fibre to connect mobile towers
UScellular urges customers to put down their phones in latest initiative
VMO2 and Vodafone give rural Scotland a 4G boost

Verizon shuffles executive team in search of growth


Changes include CFO Matt Ellis will stepping down for his role, as well as new CEO appointments for Verizon Consumer Group (VCG) and Verizon Business Group (VBG)

Verizon’s latest financial results, reported in January, were something of a disappointment, with the company suggesting that strong competition coupled with a tough global economy had forced it to lower its forecasted profit for the financial year.

Perhaps this is why today we are seeing a wave of executive changes across the company, with the company aiming to “further strengthen [its] competitive capabilities”, according to Verizon chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg.

Perhaps the largest of these changes is that EVP and CFO Matt Ellis stepping down from his role after seven years to pursue other interests. He will be replaced by SVP and controller Tony Skiadas, who, in turn, will be replaced by Mary-Lee Stillwell, currently VP of accounting and external reporting.

“I appreciate the contributions Matt has made to Verizon in his 10 years with the company, shaping our organization with his strong leadership and financial aptitude. He’s been an influential member of my executive leadership team and a trusted partner. I wish him all the best for the future as he now moves on to new opportunities,” said Vestberg.

Other changes include the appointment of Sowmyanarayan Sampath, currently head of VBG, as EVP and CEO of VCG.

The vacant CEO role at VBG will be taken by Kyle Malady, Verizon’s current head of global networks and technology.

As the final step in the reshuffle, Joe Russo, SVP and chief network officer, will succeed Malady as head of global networks and technology.

“One of our strengths at Verizon is the depth of our leadership and the breadth of skills they bring to the table. Sampath, Kyle and Joe are long-time Verizon veterans,” explained Vestberg. “I am confident these leaders will best position Verizon for the new era of customer growth. These transitions will begin immediately and all will report directly to me.”

How is the US telecoms market evolving in 2023? Join the telecoms industry in discussion at this year’s live Connected America conference in Dallas, Texas later this month!

Also in the news:
AT&T signs up to use Frontier’s fibre to connect mobile towers
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VMO2 and Vodafone give rural Scotland a 4G boost

Ericsson to pay DoJ $206.7m over bribery scandal


The penalty comes as a result of having breached their Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with the Department of Justice (DoJ) from back in 2019

This week, Swedish mobile network equipment vendor Ericsson has announced that it will pay the US DoJ the sum of $206.7 million, settling a legal battle related to a highly publicised bribery scandal.

Back in 2019, following an investigation, the DoJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused Ericsson of having bribed officials in China, Djibouti, Indonesia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam during the period between 2010 and 2016.

To resolve this conflict, Ericsson signed a DPA with the DoJ, agreeing to pay the US government $1.06 billion to settle the matter.

However, last year, Ericsson announced that an internal investigation had revealed the company may have made bribery payments to the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq, dating back to 2011.

This revelation, as well as further questions about Ericsson’s activities in Djibouti and China, led the DoJ to accuse the vendor of violating the terms of its DPA.

“When the Department afforded Ericsson the opportunity to enter into a DPA to resolve an investigation into serious FCPA violations, the company agreed to comply with all provisions of that agreement,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite. “Instead of honoring that commitment, Ericsson repeatedly failed to fully cooperate and failed to disclose evidence and allegations of misconduct in breach of the agreement.”

As a result, this week Ericsson is once again being forced to pay its way out of trouble, settling this latest clash by agreeing to a settlement with the government worth $206.7 million.

The company had been expecting a fine of some sort from the DoJ for some time, having set aside around $220 million in its budget to cover this expense back in January.

“Taking this step today means that the matter of the breaches is now resolved. This allows us to focus on executing our strategy while driving continued cultural change across the company with integrity at the centre of everything we do,” explained Ericsson CEO Borje Ekholm.

In related news, Ericsson recently revealed that it would cut around 8,500 jobs globally as part of efforts to cut costs and streamline its operations. Around 1,400 of these roles will be in the vendor’s home market of Sweden.

The company is currently seeking to reduce its costs by around $880 million by the end of 2023.

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Also in the news:
AT&T signs up to use Frontier’s fibre to connect mobile towers
UScellular urges customers to put down their phones in latest initiative
VMO2 and Vodafone give rural Scotland a 4G boost

The Telecom Provider Battle and the Criticality of CX

The Telecom Provider Battle and the Criticality of CX

This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Joshua Feast, CEO and co-founder of Cogito

Between customer complaints and requests for perks, discounts, and upgrades, telecommunications contact centers face unique challenges. Frontline agents often serve as the first point of contact for many customers, making them the face and voice of the company. In such a competitive landscape, where one bad customer service interaction could result in the consumer switching service providers, telecommunications teams must figure out what to do to stay ahead of the rest. … [visit site to read more]