In Brief:EU Council approves release of 700 MHz band by 2020 

***The European Union Council has approved a plan for opening up the 700 MHz band to mobile services. Under the proposal from the European Commission, EU states would be required to release the 694-790 MHz spectrum freed up from the switch to digital broadcasting by 30 June 2020 for mobile broadband. A grace period of another two years is allowed under certain conditions, such as a need to resolve interference or coordinate cross-border issues. EU states will need to adopt a roadmap for auctioning the spectrum by 30 June 2018.

***The government of Kenya has not yet approved a new shareholder agreement with African private equity firm Helios Investment Partners, which last year agreed to acquire Orange Group’s majority stake in Telkom Kenya. TheTreasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said that legal advisors have been brought in to analyse the deal before it is approved by the government, which owns the remainder of Telkom Kenya. ‘We are [in] the final stages now. The documentation is being reviewed and, in due course, once we have all the final approvals, which include the Cabinet, the transaction will be executed,’ he added. In November 2015 France’s Orange Group announced the signing of an agreement with Helios for the sale of its entire 70% stake in Telkom. At the start of this year, the Treasury of Kenya and Helios entered into discussions regarding a 10% stake in Telkom, with the former aiming to increase its stake in the Kenyan operator from 30% to 40%, thereby reducing Helios’ potential stake to 60%.

***Three UK,the British subsidiary of Hong Kong’s CK Hutchison, has reportedly launched legal action against rival mobile network operator EE, seeking more than GBP167 million (USD244.7 million) in lost profits.The matter relates to a network sharing deal between the two companies: Three previously agreed to share infrastructure with T-Mobile UK, and when the latter merged with Orange UK in 2010 it did so on the condition that Three would be able to access 3,000 of the enlarged entity’s base stations. Now, court papers have suggested that in the six years since the updated deal, EE has enabled Three to access just 1,301 base stations. As such, Three has claimed that this has limited its ability to provide coverage to customers in certain areas, estimating that resulting losses have already run to GBP127.9 million, while it expects future losses of around GBP39 million. An unnamed spokesperson for EE was cited as saying: ‘We strongly reject the allegations and we will contest them vigorously.’

***The volume of the illegal software market totaled USD 90 million in Azerbaijan in 2015, reports Trend citing the Global Software Survey 2016 study commissioned by the BSA (Business Software Alliance). The value of the pirate software market declined by USD 13 million in comparison with the market volume in 2013.The piracy rate fell to 84 percent in 2015 from 85 percent in 2013.The rate had been 87 percent in 2011 and 88 percent in 2009.

***Senegal’s Regulation Authority of Post and Telecoms (Autorite de Regulation des Telecoms et des Postes,ARTP)has published its market observatory for the first three months of 2016,illustrating that growth in the country’s mobile sector accelerated in the first three months of this year,following a marked slowdown in 2015.Senegal was home to more than 15.354 million mobile users at 31 March 2016,up 2.64% from 14.959 million cellular users three months earlier — a figure which itself was only 4% higher than the 14.380 million at end-2014 as quarterly growth decelerated to 0.82%, 0.60% and just 0.34% in the second, third and fourth quarters of 2015, respectively. Overall net subscriber additions stood at 395,071 in the three months under review, with gains reported by all three network operators, Orange, Tigo and Sudatel-backed Expresso Telecom. Market leader Orange closed out March with a total of over 8.614 million, compared to 8.415 million the previous quarter, while second-placed Tigo added a net 163,220 users for a total of 3.518 million and Expresso edged up to 3.221 million from 3.188 million.