Abu Dhabi investment fund buys 1.85% Jio Platforms stake

Reliance Industries have found a fifth investor to purchase a handsome stake in Jio Platforms, its digital business unit, with Mubadala signing a $1.2 billion cheque for 1.85%.

Confirmed via Twitter, Khaled Abdulla Al Qubaisi, CEO of the Aerospace, Renewables and ICT portfolios for Mubadala, revealed the $1.2 billion investment will make the firm a stake holder in Jio Platforms, the holding company of disruptive telco Reliance Jio and numerous other digital ventures. “This investment is in line with our current ICT strategy and complements our portfolio of investments in telecoms, satellite operations, data centres and other ICT infrastructure,” Al Qubaisi said.

For Reliance Industries, it certainly caps off a successful seven weeks, though who knows whether there are other irons in the fire.

Jio Platform investments since April 22, 2020
Partner Stake Investment Date
Mubadala 1.85% $1.2 billion 4 June
General Atlantic 1.34% $860 million 18 May
Vista Equity Partner 2.32% $1.5 billion 11 May
Silver Lake 1.15% $750 million 4 May
Facebook 9.9% $5.7 billion 22 April
Total 16.56% $10.01 billion

As you can see from the table above, it certainly has been a profitable couple of weeks for the Reliance Industries MD Mukesh Ambani. Aside from the additional cash which is being invested into the business to continue network deployment and upgrades, there are some interesting synergies.

Facebook, for example, offers interesting opportunities to work with SMEs in the emerging cashless economy. General Atlantic already invests in Doctolib, digital healthcare platform in Europe to connect health professionals and patients. Mubadala is the same.

One of the Mubadala investments happens to be Yahsat, a satellite company which offers voice and data coverage across 161 countries. Not only could this company assist Jio by improving the connectivity patchwork in India, it is also an interesting partner to have in the mix for international roaming.

Each of these investors have expertise and investments which would be of interest to the Jio connectivity mission, or the second wave of monetization which follows the democratisation of the mobile internet.

4G subscriptions in India (2015-21), thousands
Year Bharti Airtel Vodafone Idea Reliance Jio Other Total
2015 1,459 21* 77 1,557
2016 10,800 9,541* 72,000 3,700 95,150
2017 30,000 36,998* 160,091 22,466 242,130
2018 77,067 75,300 280,100 22 433,061
2019 127,345 104,200 370,000 604,745
2020 180,491 105,062 406,978 702,686
2021 219,718 110,344 403,310 754,803

*For simplicity, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular subscriptions have been bundled together

Source: Omdia World Information Series

The table above offers a lot of information, but there are a few very important points which we would like to draw attention to.

Firstly, the total number of 4G subscriptions in India. At 754 million, there is still plenty of headroom for growth in a country where the population exceeds 1.3 billion. Secondly, the Reliance Jio disruption dragged the India market through a digital revolution from 2016 onwards. And third, Reliance Jio has a much greater opportunity to diversify revenues through digital services as it has more 4G subscriptions than its rivals.

When you look at the subscriptions data for all mobile technologies, adding everything from 1G through to 5G, the market share battle looks a lot more flattering for Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, but it is a misleading picture. We are focusing on the 4G subscriptions as there is much more potential for additional revenues from this generation of mobile connectivity.

The blunt force object approach to telecoms is selling more subscriptions at an attractive price. Reliance Jio is clearly better at this than rivals, and there is more opportunity to sell 4G contracts in India. This will make Reliance an interesting investment, but the more savvy investors will look at everything this connectivity enables.

Through Jio Platforms, Reliance Industries has launched ventures into digital entertainment, AI, enterprise connectivity, IOT and many others. Democratising connectivity is an entry point to build a second wave of businesses as more of India is brought into the digital economy. These additional investments could be healthcare orientated, offering an alternative to traditional banking infrastructure or digitising government services. As the growth of Silicon Valley has shown, there is potential to make fortunes by leveraging connectivity.

This is why Jio Platforms is getting foreign investors excited. There is so much more to India’s digital economy than selling 4G subscriptions.

Huawei and Italy smartphone sales most heavily hit by COVID-19

The latest numbers from analyst firm Counterpoint reveal the European smartphone market shrank by 7% in Q1 2020, but there was considerable variation between vendors and countries.

Huawei took by far the biggest kicking among the top vendors, but that was probably more due to US sanctions, especially those restricting access to Android. Ironically other Chinese vendors, especially Xiaomi, were the major beneficiaries of Huawei’s struggles.

“Huawei declined a sharp 43% YoY for the quarter as the US trade sanctions continue to bite,” said Abhilash Kumar of Counterpoint. “Xiaomi has been the biggest beneficiary from Huawei’s decline as it grew 145% YoY capturing 11% share in the quarter.”

By far the most heavily hit among the European countries that Counterpoint tracks was Italy, which saw its smartphone market shrink by 21% year-on-year. Italy was the first European country to be heavily hit by the virus and consequently imposed a strict lockdown. The UK didn’t start locking down until the end of Q1 and Russia was hit even later, so it will be interesting to see how this data looks for Q2.

“Q1 is seasonally weak, but the coronavirus outbreak amplified this,” said Peter Richardson of Counterpoint. “The smartphone market decline was primarily due to COVID-19 outbreak across the region in the second half of the quarter. The biggest five markets in Europe entered lockdowns of varying severity at different points in March. Consequently, most of the offline stores were closed, though online remained open throughout. Also, the economic impact of the pandemic has led to lengthening replacement cycles as consumers withhold making discretionary purchases.”

UK’s National Cyber Security Centre launches another Huawei probe

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has confirmed it is attempting to understand what impact potential US sanction directed towards Huawei would have on UK networks.

With Huawei equipment and components delicately woven throughout the complex tapestry of telecoms in the UK, sanctions from the US which would materially inhibit Huawei operations should be a major concern.

“The security and resilience of our networks is of paramount importance,” a cross-government statement reads. “Following the US announcement of additional sanctions against Huawei, the NCSC is looking carefully at any impact they could have to the UK’s networks.”

There have been reports circulating through the press suggesting UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is once again considering the role of Huawei in the telecoms landscape. These rumours are a separate story, but directly linked; the US wants to reduce the commercial opportunities for Huawei, and this is yet another attempt.

First, the US Government attempted the diplomatic approach, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempting to prove his debating skills. Secondly, fear was introduced with the US attempted to reignite xenophobic fears of communism. The third strategy was more directly aggressive; work with Huawei or have access to our intelligence data, you can’t have both.

None of these strategies worked, but the latest attempt is an interesting one. If Huawei’s supply chain can be compromised, the UK (and other) Governments might have to turn its back on the Chinese vendor because it does not meet the standards required for resiliency tests.

Should the UK Government be revising its position, it would certainly be a blow to Huawei’s credibility.

“We’ve seen the reports from unnamed sources which simply don’t make sense,” said Victor Zhang of Huawei. “The government decided in January to approve our part in the 5G rollout, because Britain needs the best possible technologies, more choice, innovation and more suppliers, all of which means more secure and more resilient networks.

“As a private company, 100% owned by employees, which has operated in the UK for 20 years, our priority has been to help mobile and broadband companies keep Britain connected, which in this current health crisis has been more vital than ever. This is our proven track-record.”

Looking at the other rumours outside this confirmed investigation into the impact of US sanctions on Huawei, the underlying cause could be directed back tor Conservative backbencher Sir Iain Duncan Smith. Once a prominent voice in the House of Commons, Duncan Smith’s influence has been wilting rapidly, so much so this is one of the first times anyone has paid attention to him for what feels like decades.

In March, Duncan Smith led a small group of Tory revolters in opposition of the Supply Chain Review. Instead of limiting ‘High Risk vendors’ to 35% of any telecoms network, this group wanted them banned completely. These politicians clearly did not understand the complexities of the situation and debates were riddled with inaccuracies, but it appears the pressure has been enough to turn the head of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

What is worth noting is that while the industry has been in firm support of Huawei in recent years, this staunch stance seems to be softening.

Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read recently discussed the Huawei situation during the telco’s earnings call, and while Vodafone had been warning of catastrophic consequences to prevent work with Huawei, the current rhetoric is no-where near as firm. The executive talked of removing certain firms “moderately” and investments into alternatives. It does appear Vodafone is preparing for the worst-case scenario.

While the rumours are nothing more than rumours, with the US undermining Huawei’s ability to operate as desired some uncomfortable questions will be asked. Top of the list is whether the vendor can maintain security and resiliency credentials for its products and components following such a disruption to its supply chain. This could drastically impact its position in the UK telecoms landscape.


Telecoms.com Daily Poll:

Should Huawei be allowed to operate in the UK?

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A look back at the biggest stories this week

Whether it’s important, depressing or just entertaining, the telecoms industry is always one which attracts attention.

Here are the stories we think are worth a second look at this week:


Facebook reignites the fires of its Workplace unit

Facebook has announced its challenge to the video-conferencing segment and a reignition of its venture into the world of collaboration and productivity.

Full story here


Trump needs fodder for the campaign trail, maybe Huawei fits the bill

A thriving economy and low levels of unemployment might have been the focal point of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, pre-pandemic, but fighting the ‘red under the bed’ might have to do now.

Full story here


Will remote working trends endure beyond lockdown?

It is most likely anyone reading this article is doing so from the comfort of their own home, but the question is whether this has become the new norm is a digitally defined economy?

Full story here


ZTE and China Unicom get started on 6G

Chinese kit vendor ZTE has decided now is a good time to announce it has signed a strategic cooperation agreement on 6G with operator China Unicom.

Full story here


ITU says lower prices don’t lead to higher internet penetration

The UN telecoms agency observes that, while global connectivity prices are going down, the relationship with penetration is not as inversely proportion as you might think.

Full story here


Jio carves out space for yet another US investor

It seems the US moneymen have a taste for Indian connectivity as General Atlantic becomes the fourth third-party firm to invest in the money-making machine which is Jio Platforms.

Full story here


Telecoms.com Daily Poll:

Can the sharing economy (ride-sharing, short-stay accommodation etc.) survive COVID-19?

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Trump needs fodder for the campaign trail, maybe Huawei fits the bill

A thriving economy and low levels of unemployment might have been the focal point of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, pre-pandemic, but fighting the ‘red under the bed’ might have to do now.

In 2016, Donald Trump won the Presidential election for numerous reasons, but one very important element was his ability to mobilise the vote of elements of society who wouldn’t have had any interest in politics otherwise. One reason was because of who Trump was and is, a celebrity more than a statesman, but perhaps a more critical element was the message.

Trump ignored political correctness, seemingly appealing to racism and xenophobia as the Make America Great Again slogan was born. He proposed the deportation of all illegal immigrants, the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border and a temporary ban on foreign Muslims entering the US. The forgotten men and women of the US were the focal point of this campaign.

This campaign, focusing on a single message of foreign people are bad for patriotic US citizens, worked. If Trump is to repeat the success of his 2016 Presidential Election in November, there will have to be another message at the core of the campaign to rouse the masses and build a slogan on.

There has been a suspicion that the success of the economy and low levels of unemployment would have been this focal point. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy was on the rise. From Trump’s entry to the Oval office on 6 January 2017, to the final days before lockdown in February, the Dow Jones grew from 19,963 to 29,398, a 47% surge. Unemployment was down to 3.5%, slowly eroding through the three-year period.

The message could have been ‘look what four years of Trump has gotten you, wouldn’t you like four more?’. But then coronavirus hit, and the economy went down the toilet.

The Dow Jones will recover, as will unemployment, but the Trump campaign would be playing with fire by making this the central point of the campaign. Many believe Trump was too slow to act against the coronavirus after spending months claiming it was little more than the common flu. At its worst point, the Dow Jones fell to 18,591 while unemployment is currently as high as 14%, and likely to go higher.

Using the economy as a reason for re-elections is offering ammunition to the Democrat candidate, the opening round of a slug match where Trump can be undermined and embarrassed.

Without this weapon in his arsenal, Trump will have to find a new focal point to build a campaign around; China and Huawei could fit the bill.

Trump needs to redirect attention away from his failings as a leader during the pre-coronavirus weeks. People generally need an enemy when times are hard, and the invisible enemy of today will not do; you can’t get people angry about a virus, not in the way that the Trump campaign will want. If Trump can further vilify the Chinese, he can position himself as the hero, the man to champion US values, whatever they might be.

Huawei has been made the proxy of the Chinese Government in the eyes of the US. If the US is scared about the ‘red under the bed’, the idea of communism creeping into democratic societies secretly, the successful telecoms vendor can be made public enemy number one.

This is clearly not a new campaign of hate from the President, but it is one which had quietened off over the last few months. It is an on-going conflict point between the US and Chinese Governments, and fuel was thrown onto the embers last week.

In a new assault from the US Department of Commerce, further efforts were made to inhibit the ability of Huawei to source semiconductor components for smartphones and base stations. The US is perhaps hoping the globalised nature of the technology industry, which has allowed Huawei to thrive, can be weaponised against it as few (if any) companies could operate without a single trace of the US in its supply chain.

“We have survived and forged ahead despite all the odds,” Huawei Rotating Chairman Guo Ping said at a virtual conference this week. “The US insists on persistently attacking Huawei, but what will that achieve for the world?”

Conflict with the Chinese might not sound good for economic reasons, but for political ones, it is fantastic. Trump needs an enemy so he can be the champion of for the forgotten men and women of the US.

While it is clear there are a lot of US politicians buying into the anti-China campaign of hate, we asked Telecoms.com readers how they feel about the on-going aggression towards Huawei:

Telecoms.com Poll: Do you feel the US Government is justified in its action against Huawei?
Yes, it is effectively a pawn for the Chinese Government 43%
Yes, but Government links are not there 1%
Maybe, but show us the evidence of foul play first 12%
No, Trump shouldn’t punish a company just because it is Chinese 22%
No, international competition should be left to sort itself out 22%

Huawei might have enjoyed a brief breather over the last few months, but the signs are there to suggest there might be greater conflict on the horizon. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper both drew battle lines.

“Let’s talk for a second about the other realm, cybersecurity,” Pompeo said during his speech. “Huawei and other state-back tech companies are trojan horses for Chinese intelligence.”

“Under President Xi’s rule, the Chinese Communist Party is heading even faster and further in the wrong direction,” said Esper. “More internal repression, more predatory economic practices, more heavy handedness, and most concerning for me, a more aggressive military posture.”

Further sanctions and more aggressive policies against Huawei specifically, as well as other Chinese companies in the international markets, could be on the horizon. Huawei executives have certainly expressed concern, but there are numerous other companies who should also be sitting uncomfortably.

The US Senate recently passed the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act (S.945) which could result in numerous companies who do not pass strict criteria being delisted from US stock exchanges. China is of course a target with this legislation.

“The SEC works hard to protect American investors from being swindled by American companies,” said Senator John Kennedy, one of the politicians to introduce the original bill.

“It’s asinine that we’re giving Chinese companies the opportunity to exploit hardworking Americans – people who put their retirement and college savings in our exchanges – because we don’t insist on examining their books. There are plenty of markets all over the world open to cheaters, but America can’t afford to be one of them.”

This legislation would not impact Huawei, it is a private company after all, but it is further evidence of increasing aggression towards China, and suggestions there could be rising tensions.

And while Huawei might be attracting the most attention from US Senators right now, there are certainly more which could fall into the crosshairs. Tencent owns TikTok which has already come under criticism, Alibaba is hoping to expand its cloud computing venture into international markets, while the likes of OPPO and Xiaomi are proving to be quite successful in gaining interest as challenger smartphone brands. These are all companies which would perhaps fall foul of US opinion.

The first Trump campaign rallies will give more of an indication of what will be the focus of his scorn and hatred over the coming months, and where the pent-up frustrations of US citizens could be directed. We suspect Huawei could be in for a rough few months as Trump further vilifies the Chinese Government and looks for an opponent to bureaucratically challenge during the campaign.

Taking down Huawei could be the feather the Trump campaign is looking for in its quest for re-election to the White House.


Telecoms.com Daily Poll:

Can the sharing economy (ride-sharing, short-stay accommodation etc.) survive COVID-19?

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Apple and Google release jointly developed exposure notification API

Just over a month after they started working on it, Apple and Google have made their COVID-fighting framework available to public health authorities.

The key to using smartphones for exposure notification and contract tracing is giving them the ability to constantly sense each other. This is best done through Bluetooth LE, but both iOS and Android prevent apps from using Bluetooth unless they’re active, so a special workaround is required. That has been built into this framework, but is only available to apps that use it.

“Starting today, our exposure notifications technology is available to public health agencies on both iOS and Android,” said a joint statement from the companies. “What we’ve built is not an app—rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install. Our technology is designed to make these apps work better.

“Each user gets to decide whether or not to opt-in to Exposure Notifications; the system does not collect or use location from the device; and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not to report that in the public health app. User adoption is key to success and we believe that these strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage use of these apps.”

The Verge reports that three US states (the response is much more decentralised over there) are already working on apps that use the framework. That piece also contains some handy explanations and links about the underlying tech and privacy implications. Apparently a total of 22 countries have received access to the API.

Turning this around so quickly is a good effort from Apple and Google, as was their quick decision to put business rivalry to the side for the time being, but then this sort of thing is one of their core competencies. The same can’t be said for health agencies, which is why the hubris of those, like the NHS in the UK, is so frustrating. They should stop trying to reinvent the wheel and go with the best technology available, which is almost certainly this.

Xiaomi grows in Q1, but Q2 is where the danger lies

Xiaomi has reported revenue and profit rises through to March 31, but let’s not forget this does not include the period of extensive lockdowns in European markets.

With total revenues coming in at roughly $7 billion, a year-on-year increase of 13.6%, profits grew by 10.6% to approximately $320 million. Considering the backdrop of COVID-19, this would be considered a healthy performance through the three-months, though investors will have to brace for the impact of societal lockdowns during April and May in Western Europe, a growth region to Xiaomi.

“Although the industry is facing severe challenges, the Group still experienced growth in all segments despite the market downturn, which fully reflects the flexibility, resilience and competitiveness of Xiaomi’s business model,” said Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun.

“We believe a crisis is the ultimate litmus test for a company’s value, business model and growth potential. As the impact of the pandemic starts to ease, we will continue to focus on the ‘5G + AIoT’ strategy and strengthen our scale of investment, in order to let everyone in the world enjoy a better life through innovative technology.”

Jun might be positive, but it is dampened success in comparison to previous quarters,

Xiaomi year-on-year financial performance for 2019
Period Revenue Profit
Q4 +27.1% +34.8%
Q3 +5.5% +20.3%
Q2 +20.2% +49.8%
Q1 +27.2% +34.7%

Source: Xiaomi corporate blog, Mi Global

Although there was a dip in performance during the third quarter, which could be attributed to a slowdown in smartphone shipments in its Chinese domestic market, Xiaomi is a company which has been on the rise. Success has been in the international markets primarily, and the executive team will hope the dampened success will only be temporary as the world begins to open-up again.

The issue is April and May, which will show up in the next quarterly earnings report. International revenues have been a significant driver for Xiaomi in recent years, and this quarter saw 50% of revenues attributed to the overseas markets.

Over the first three months of 2020, IDC attributed 31.2% of shipments in India to Xiaomi, while Canalys estimated Xiaomi’s smartphone shipments grew by 58.3% year-on-year in the European markets, accounting for 14.3% market share. In Italy, France and Germany it ranked it the top four smartphone manufacturers, while it claims to be number one in Spain. The growth numbers in LATAM, the Middle East and Africa were even more impressive.

Unfortunately, the majority of markets where Xiaomi is seeing success are the ones where lockdown has been severely impacting smartphone sales. In Europe, IDC said smartphone revenues could be down 10% optimistically, but worst case scenario could see sales slashed by as much as 47%.

Xiaomi has estimated that as of mid-May, the weekly number of smartphone activations in the European market had returned to over 90% of the average weekly level in January. Sales are gradually beginning to recover, but they are still not at the levels which would have been expected and more than half of this quarter has already passed. It is not a good sign, but these are certainly extenuating circumstances.

Investors have not exactly been thrilled with the news either. Xiaomi share price, on the Hong Kong stock exchange, is down 2% at the time of writing having started the day with a brief surge.

The saving grace for Xiaomi is diversification, however.

One business unit is leveraging the Xiaomi brand and existing customer base to drive sales in IoT and lifestyle products segment. The IOT platform now has 252 million connected IoT devices on it (not including smartphones and laptops), while there have also been progress in selling TVs, wireless earphones, electric scooters, robot vacuums and wifi routers. The business seems to be passionately and aggressively embracing diversification.

The second important area of diversification is Xiaomi’s internet services. With revenues of $830 million, a year-on-year increase of 38.6%, the division accounts for 11.6% of total revenues, up from 10.1% in Q4 2020 and 9.9% in Q3 2020. This division is slowly becoming more prominent but most importantly, this is recurring cash, the holy grail in the digital economy.

Xiaomi is another Chinese company which has been embraced by the international markets in recent years, a critical driver of revenue growth, but this progress might prove to be the source of great pain during the second period of 2020.

OPPO signs up Vodafone for European expansion

Chinese smartphone vendor has partnered with pan-European telco Vodafone to offer its full-range of 4G and 5G devices.

As part of the agreement, Vodafone will become an OPPO partner in Germany, UK, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Turkey and the Netherlands. The Chinese smartphone brand has been very successful in its domestic market, though international ventures have been slightly more muted.

Leaning on Vodafone’s credibility and operations is one way to add some momentum to global ambitions, though as this is not an exclusive deal, OPPO is also free to work with rivals. The Chinese smartphone vendor could be eating its cake and having it too.

“OPPO is confident that our industry-leading products and technologies will enable Vodafone to win new opportunities in the 5G era,” said Alen Wu, OPPO’s President of Global Sales.

“Vodafone’s vision that ‘we connect for a better future’ aligns with OPPO’s value of ‘Benfen’ – to do the right thing and provide real value to customers. OPPO looks forward to solidifying a long-term win-win relationship with Vodafone to create a better future for our customers in the 5G era.”

Although there might be telcos around Europe which offer a market-leading position in their home markets, few can offer the breadth and depth Vodafone can offer.

Vodafone European presence
Market Subscribers (thousands) Market share
Germany 30,052 22.2%
Italy 19,245 19.8%
UK 18,042 18.5%
Spain 13,843 16.4%
Ireland 2,004 35.1%
Portugal 4,682 26.5%
Romania 9,296 34.7%
Greece 4,476 26.6%
Czech Republic 3,990 24.9%
Hungary 3,127 26.8%
Albania 1,618 42.3%
Malta 302 49.1%

Sources: Vodafone Investor Relations and Omdia World Information Series

This is the power of Vodafone. It might not be the most successful companies in the individual markets, but the sheer size of its European footprint is unrivalled. Let’s not forget what the objective of OPPO will be; exposure far and wide. Vodafone offers credibility and sales channels in numerous markets, though only a few will be included in the deal to start.

While Huawei has stolen headlines (positive and negative) over the last few years, it is always worth remembering there are other smartphone brands emerging from the country which are fighting for market share. Xiaomi is one which has proven successful, though OPPO, VIVO and OnePlus are just a few more which could make a splash in foreign waters.

According to estimates from IDC, OPPO has been successful in the international markets but growth has somewhat stagnated in recent quarters. During the final quarter of 2019, shipments accounted for 8.3% market share, though OPPO has fluctuated between 7.4% and 8.9% for the last few years. This is a successful business, but a catalyst might be needed to take it up a notch.

Apple opens stores with mandatory face masks and temperature checks

Gadget giant Apple is slowly looking to return to normal, but that term now requires major qualification.

Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s head of retail, wrote a blog designed to update its customers on the state of things regarding its stores. “As of today, nearly 100 of our stores globally have been able to open their doors to our customers again,” writes O’Brien. Around half of these are Chinese stores, which have been open for a while, since the country seemed to have got on top of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now Apple tentatively starting the process of opening its stores in the US. O’Brien pointed people towards its store list, where you can see if one is open or not. It was clearly not designed for Journalists, however, as you have to click on each store before you can find out, which, frankly, we couldn’t be bothered to do. Apple has a total global store count of 510, so we’re still only looking at a small fraction of them.

The store experience won’t be quite as special as it used to be, however, as Apple is putting in place a bunch of special measures designed to mitigate the threat of catching the plague in its stores. “Face coverings will be required for all of our teams and customers, and we will provide them to customers who don’t bring their own,” writes O’Brien.

“Temperature checks will be conducted at the door, and posted health questions will screen for those with symptoms — like cough or fever — or who have had recent exposure to someone infected with COVID 19. Throughout the day, we’re conducting enhanced deep cleanings that place special emphasis on all surfaces, display products, and highly trafficked areas.”

Sounds like a laugh a minute, doesn’t it? Since Apple has had its delivery service up and running for a while and the look and feel of its products have barely changed for years, it’s not obvious what the great need is to risk life and limb for the chance to fondle some shiny things. But each to their own and it looks like Apple fetishists around the world will soon be able to get their fix once more, so long as they’re judged to be sufficiently untainted.

A look back at the biggest stories this week

Whether it’s important, depressing or just entertaining, the telecoms industry is always one which attracts attention.

Here are the stories we think are worth a second look at this week:


Reports suggest the BT empire is beginning to crumble

No-one in the UK should be in the same league as BT, but poorly executed strategy has kept rivals within touching distance and now the foundations are reportedly being sold off.

Read the full story here


Microsoft doubles down on the telco cloud with Metaswitch acquisition

Don’t say you weren’t warned, telecoms industry. The tech big guns are trained on your home turf and they’re not afraid to splash the cash.

Read the full story here


Huawei threatened to pull investment from Denmark in response to new screening law

The head of Huawei Denmark sent a letter to the Danish Prime Minister indicating it would rethink its involvement with the country if special security requirements were imposed on it.

Read the full story here


Return to work messages start to appear as Twitter hands power to employees

One of the questions which has lingered over the last few weeks is whether the COVID-19 enforced digital transformation will persist in the long-term, though the answer is becoming a bit clearer.

Read the full story here


ETSI gets to work on new contact tracing app standard

With countries across Europe all trying to reinvent the wheel with their own contact tracing apps, standardization is long overdue.

Read the full story here


Reliance Jio signs a third deal to add another $1.5bn to its bank account

Vista Equity Partners has become the third-largest investor in Reliance Platforms, purchasing a 2.32% equity stake in the disruptive business for $1.5 billion.

Read the full story here