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A week in telecoms: Singtel and M1 unite on APIs

Cellnex unveils next chapter, Singtel and M1 unite on APIs, and Vodafone expands open RAN collaboration with Intel.

Anne Morris
07 Mar 2024
A week in telecoms: Singtel and M1 unite on APIs

A week in telecoms: Singtel and M1 unite on APIs

Cellnex offloads towers in Ireland; sells private networks to Boldyn

Spain-based infrastructure provider Cellnex continued on the “next chapter” of its journey as it seeks to underpin its position in the 12 markets where it is now operational, including offloading assets deemed to be non-core and establishing a plan to carve out and possibly monetize its land assets.

Indeed, this week saw a flurry of announcements by the formerly highly acquisitive mobile tower specialist as it attempts to strengthen its balance sheet and reduce debt. For example, it agreed to sell its Irish unit to Florida-based Phoenix Tower International (PTI) for around €971 million ($1.05 billion). PTI has previously acquired 2,353 French sites from Cellnex. 

The sale in Ireland follows recent agreements to divest its private networks business to rival Boldyn Networks, and offload a 49% stake in its Nordics business to investment firm Stonepeak. 

During its Capital Markets Day, Cellnex also unveiled a new strategy based on four pillars: a commitment to focus on core markets while divesting from “non-core business lines”; prioritizing co-tenancy growth; a comprehensive efficiency drive; and a restatement of its commitment to strong governance and the incorporation of ESG principles.

Marco Patuano, CEO of Cellnex, said the company is now focused on improving efficiency, simplifying the portfolio and the business, and capturing essential growth opportunities.

“This new approach will allow us to balance investments and return significantly more cash to shareholders from 2026 onwards, while strengthening our position as Europe’s leading independent tower company,” he said.

Singtel and M1 join forces on anti-fraud network APIs

Singapore-based operators Singtel and M1 announced plans to collaborate on network APIs in alignment with the GSMA’s Open Gateway initiative, with an initial focus on APIs that help combat digital fraud.

The two operators signed an MoU with the aim of working together to federate a suite of APIs that will enable enterprises to access real-time network data for authentication and fraud detection.

The first set of APIs to be federated is Number Verify and Device Location, and the two operators said they will work together to federate more APIs in the future. They noted that the federation works in accordance with the GSMA Open Gateway framework.

Singtel Singapore CEO Ng Tian Chong described the federation as a “step in the right direction” towards combating digital fraud and encouraged other telcos to come onboard.

At MWC Barcelona 2024, the GSMA said 47 mobile operator groups, representing 239 mobile networks and 65% of connections around the world, have now signed up to the Open Gateway initiative that was launched in 2023 to drive the development and deployment of CAMARA network APIs.

TM Forum members also recently began developing new “Operate APIs” to complement CAMARA network APIs, with a goal of providing a standardized way for mobile operators to make the interfaces commercially available to aggregators and developers. TM Forum has also published its first Open Gateway Operate API, which focuses on the operations between channel partners and operators.

Vodafone and Intel extend open RAN collaboration

Vodafone and Intel increased the scope of their research collaboration on open RAN technology at Vodafone’s innovation center in Málaga, Spain. The partners said they will work on optimising advanced algorithms for use in open RAN to improve performance while reducing energy consumption.

The two companies already collaborate on Vodafone’s planned UK commercial deployment of 4th Gen Intel Xeon processors with Intel vRAN Boost in the first half of 2024.

They now plan to use AI and machine learning to develop “ultra-efficient algorithms” for 5G massive MIMO, which is used to multiply capacity in urban areas.

The resulting algorithms and “other innovations generated by this research” are then intended to be integrated into test silicon, produced by Intel, “and used to create new benchmarks for the advancement of silicon needed to drive powerful industrial internet applications.”

Vodafone and Intel began their collaboration on open RAN in 2022. The operator is also working with Dell, NEC, Samsung Electronics, Wind River, Capgemini Engineering and Keysight Technologies on its open RAN deployment in Europe, with an initial focus on 2,500 sites in the UK. 

In February 2024, Vodafone announced the start of a commercial open RAN deployment in Romania, installing sites in 20 cities in collaboration with its vendor partners.

The future of the RAN was of course a hot topic at MWC, with a flurry of announcements that indicated how regional market forces and regulation can also be a factor in determining RAN technology choices, whether open or with a combination of AI.

Viavi to acquire Spirent for £1 billion

In what is a major M&A move in the test and measurement sector, Viavi Solutions agreed a deal to acquire Spirent Communications for about £1 billion ($1.277 billion). The acquisition is expected to close during the second half of 2024, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.

Viavi said it views Spirent as a provider of complementary products and services that address the test, assurance, and automation challenges of a new generation of technologies.

The two companies believe that Spirent’s product offerings and technological assets are “highly complementary and synergistic” to Viavi’s existing portfolio, which will enable the combined group to provide high performance, integrated solutions for networking and mission-critical applications, including 5G and 6G wireless infrastructure.

Spirent chairman Bill Thomas said the board intends to recommend the offer to shareholders and believes that Viavi is the “right owner to take Spirent on to the next phase of its growth story.”

The acquisition will be funded by Viavi’s existing cash, a fully committed $800 million, seven-year term loan from Wells Fargo Bank, and a $400 million investment from Silver Lake in the form of a fully committed senior convertible note.

Viavi provides network test, monitoring and assurance solutions for telecommunications, cloud, enterprises, first responders, military, aerospace and railway. Spirent has focused on automated test and assurance solutions for networks, cybersecurity and positioning.

STC Group launches Tali Ventures

Saudi telco STC Group has reportedly announced the launch of a new venture capital arm under the name of Tali Ventures, which aims to invest in innovation and startups that align with the group’s strategy.

According to the reports, the fund aims to invest in early-stage and advanced-stage startups, focusing on several areas including artificial intelligence, financial technology, information and communication technology, cloud services, cybersecurity, and other digital sectors.

The fund has already invested in several startups, including Nile, a network equipment solutions company, Rawa, an inventory management platform, and NearPay, a digital payments solution platform.

STC also pointed to its existing efforts to support entrepreneurs and digital projects through various initiatives and investments, such as inspireU, which it said has supported over 100 startups. STV and stc venture funds have also invested in “numerous startups.”

Also noted…

Apple has been fined over €1.8 billion ($1.9 billion) by the European Commission for the abuse of “its dominant position on the market for the distribution of music streaming apps to iPhone and iPad users (‘iOS users’) through its App Store.”

BT Business plans to launch the first services on its new Global Fabric network later this year. 

Telecom Italia (TIM) reportedly proposed CEO Pietro Labriola for another mandate and business lawyer Alberta Figari for the role of chair.