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Patrick Drahi’s Altice acquires 12.1% stake in Britain’s BT

Inside Telecom Staff

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Patrick Drahi

France’s second largest telco, Altice, announced on Thursday the acquisition of a 12.1 percent stake in the UK’s BT Group for a valuation of $3.1 billion, as it looks to double down on its ambition of building a nationwide fiber broadband network.

Altice – which is owned by telecoms tycoon Patrick Drahi – operates in the U.S., France, Portugal, and Israel delivering fiber and mobile networks to more than 40 million users.

Altice UK is owned by Next Alt, Drahi’s private holding, which also controls SFR, the second largest telecoms operator in France behind Orange.

However, Altice UK, a company set up specifically for the acquisition, had rushed to calm critics by publicly informing “the BT board that it does not intend to make a takeover offer for BT.”

The company even highlighted that it holds the board and management team at BT “in high regard and is supportive of their strategy.”

In parallel, BT echoed Altice’s intentions as they released a statement categorizing the 12.1 percent acquisition as “support for our management and strategy.”

“We welcome all investors who recognize the long-term value of our business and the important role it plays in the UK,” BT Group’s statement read.

While others consider that BT, which is the UK’s largest broadband and mobile operator, is championing itself as a national hero by revamping the country’s networks which are currently trailing behind other EU countries such as Spain.

According to previous announcements, the telco is planning to extend its fiber broadband to 25 million homes and businesses by 2026 – a case in point of why the acquisition was approved.

This was doubled down by Drahi who released a statement noting that the investment “has a compelling opportunity to deliver one of the UK Government’s most important policies, namely the substantial expansion of access to a full-fiber, gigabit-capable broadband network throughout the UK.”

“Our approach is to combine high levels of technical expertise, resilience and operating efficiency with a strong focus on innovation and customer service. Altice has brought an entrepreneurial culture, energy and effectiveness to building its networks and operations,” the telecoms tycoon added.

In parallel, it is worth mentioning that this acquisition places Altice as the largest BT shareholder, steaming ahead of Deutsche Telekom’s 12.06 percent stake, according to numbers by Refinitiv.

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Telecoms

BT, Microsoft partner to enhance voice calling

Hala Turk

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London-based telecom provider BT partnered on Thursday with Microsoft to enhance enterprise voice calling, security, and industry-focused services in various sectors. 

The new agreement will allow BT to switch its global managed voice services to the cloud and deliver them directly through Microsoft Teams. 

Microsoft’s Operator Connect plan, that supports telecom operators adding their calling plans to Microsoft Teams, will help the British partner to create new business models and revenue streams. 

According to Microsoft’s blog post this deal “paves the way for the development of revolutionary new cloud-based products and services for BT’s voice customers and the wider telecoms sector.” 

As for cybersecurity part of the deal, the pair will work together to build and launch a new generation of managed security services that will enable and secure the modern collaborative workplace. 

The British provider will team up with the U.S. tech giant to create unique security propositions to protect clients’ operations in the cloud as well as its own IT infrastructure. 

“BT and Microsoft are at the forefront of innovation in global digital platforms and connectivity that will take technology and communication beyond limits,” Bas Burger, CEO of Global at BT, and executive sponsor of BT’s partnership with Microsoft said in a joint statement.  

“This partnership will ensure all of Microsoft’s solutions work ‘Best on BT’ and support both companies’ commitments to improving digital skills in the community,” Burger added. 

In parallel, Omar Abbosh, corporate vice president of industry solutions at Microsoft, considered the partnership as the “start of an exciting, shared journey of innovation and collaboration that will shape the future of telecoms.” 

Abbosh further explained that BT can use Microsoft’s cutting-edge tools to develop new communications services that meet the needs and demands of today’s customers. 

It is worth mentioning that the number of users of BT’s managed Microsoft Teams collaboration service has almost doubled during the past 12 months, according to the pair. 

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Telecoms

5G drives Chinese mobile service to rise at 3.1% in 2026

Hala Turk

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Chinese mobile service revenues are expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate CAGR of 3.1 percent from $131.3 billion in 2021 to $152.7 billion in 2026, according to a study published on Thursday.  

London-based data analytics company, GlobalData published a study showing that the mobile data revenues will witness a rise in its CAGR reaching 6.8 percent due to the growing adoption of 5G services, followed by the rise in data Average Revenue Per Unit (ARPU). 

“5G subscriptions will surpass 4G subscriptions in 2023 and go on to account for 73.8 percent of the total mobile subscriptions share in 2026, driven by the ongoing 5G network expansion by operators and increase in the availability of 5G-enabled smartphones,” said Harika Damidi, Telecoms Analyst at GlobalData. 

In parallel, findings indicate that the average mobile data usage is expected to increase from 9.9GB per month in 2021 to around 32.6GB per month in 2026, as a result to the mounting consumption of high-bandwidth online entertainment and social media content over smartphones. 

However, data revealed that the mobile voice revenues are supposed to drop at a CAGR of 5.2 percent between 2021 and 2026, due to falling voice ARPU levels. 

Damidi explained that the increase in penetration of Internet of Things (IoT) and M2M services are also expected to drive market growth during the forecast period. 

The analyst further highlighted that two state-owned companies had led the Chinese telecom market in terms of mobile subscriptions last year.  

Damidi said that China Mobile ranked first followed by China Telecom, explaining that China Mobile “is making strategic investments in 5G base stations, data centers, industrial Internet, and IoT to ensure its leadership.” 

It is worth mentioning that, in 2020, China mobile generated a revenue of $118.8 billion, in comparison China Telecom’s $60.91 billion during the same year according to Statista.  

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Telecoms

Indian Telco Reliance Jio adds 3.5 million users in May

Hala Turk

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Indian telco Reliance Jio added 3.55 million wireless subscribers during the month of May, acquiring the highest rank in the telecom industry for four consecutive months. 

Despite the overall wireless subscriber base drop throughout that month by 6.27 million, Jio outperformed its fellow Indian telcos Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. 

Both providers lost 4.61 million and 4.28 million subscribers, respectively. 

As per data shared by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Trai, Jio’s wireless subscriber base increased by 0.83 percent to reach 431.23 million.  

In contrast, Bharti Airtel’s base declined by 1.31 percent to 348.29 million.  

Similarly, Vodafone Idea’s wireless user base was down 1.52 percent to 277.62 million. 

In terms of wireless broadband users, Jio’s base stood at 431.23 million, followed by Airtel at 189.49 million and Vodafone Idea at 119.63 million.  

Industry experts believe the loss in user-base is mainly due to the lockdown and reverse migration to villages. 

Various states across the country were under lockdown in May to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The decision resulted in labors heading back to their towns. 

Additionally, several workers are thought to have discontinued their mobile subscription. 

Despite these factors, Jio was able to add subscribers due to its strong offline retail network at the micro-level. Also, the company was able to sell JioPhone to a good number of customers, many of whom have come from rivals Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. 

Moreover, Reliance Jio’s fiber optic project deployed in 2018, enabled it to add around 200,000 wireline broadband users. 

It is worth mentioning that the Indian telco partnered on Thursday with Oppo to field test Jio’s standalone 5G networks. 

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