Huawei makes a Beeline for Russian 5G

Holographic calls have become the hot 5G use-case so Huawei teamed up with Beeline to do one in Russia.

VimpelCom-owned Beeline rented out the Moscow Museum for this demo designed to show how great 5G is. It came soon after Vodafone tried a similar move in the UK, as the telecoms industry searches desperately for ways to capture the public imagination about a technology that, initially at least, will mainly just provide agility and efficiency to operators.

The quality of this demo seemed like a distinct drop-off from the Vodafone one as it involved ‘mixed reality’ headsets rather than a free-standing holographic projection. As a consequence people were treated to the far less impressive spectacle of a bloke in a suit fumbling blindly around a room while talking to himself.

“This May 2018, Beeline and Huawei signed an agreement to pursue the joint development of 5G in Russia,” said Aiden Wu, CEO of Huawei in Russia. “Our cooperation has been extremely productive, which today’s demonstration has quite clearly shown. We will continue working together to bring the implementation of a new communication standard closer to becoming a worldwide phenomenon and speed up the process of creating new technologies and services based on this standard.”

“The rapid development of modern technologies sets a precedence for operators to provide subscribers with high-quality mobile communications at high speeds,” said Vasyl Latsanych, CEO of PJSC VimpelCom. “That’s why Beeline is already preparing its network infrastructure and is conducting research on how to make a rational transition to 5G technologies.”

Huawei was keen to stress that this demo was done using its gNodeB commercially available 5G base station over the 27 GHz band. It also listed a bunch of other kit, but you get the idea. No bandwidth claims were made but it used MIMO 64×64 tech. There was talk about how great this sort of thing will be for virtual experiences that save you having to leave the house.

Veon CEO calls it a day with no replacement lined up

CEO Jean-Yves Charlier has decided to step away from the artist formerly known as Vimpelcom but they don’t seem to have even started looking for a new one.

Ursula Burns, who has been Chairman of Veon since July 2017, will now become Executive Chairman, which basically means she’s doing the CEO job too. To be fair she’s pretty well qualified for the gig, having been CEO of Xerox from 2009-2016, but she’s presumably now in the board member phase of her career, including American Express, Exxon Mobil, Nestlé and Uber, and Diageo next month.

“It has been a privilege to lead Veon through a critical period in its history,” said Charlier. “Over the past three years, we have achieved a profound transformation of the group and I am immensely proud of all that we have accomplished. The transformation creates a solid foundation for a positive path for the company in the years ahead and I wish Ursula and the Veon teams across the world the very best.”

“The supervisory board and I want to extend our thanks to Jean-Yves for his contribution during his time at Veon,” said Burns. “He leaves the company having led three years of performance, structural and business transformation, and he will assist me with the transition.

“With Veon’s unique geographic footprint, and a strong push on our digital agenda to better serve our 240 million customers, we are well positioned to compete, grow and prosper in the markets we serve. I look forward to working even closer with Veon’s management team to build on our strong foundations and find further opportunities to unlock value for our shareholders.”

The protagonists clearly want to create the impression of everything being mellow, groovy and under control. But the ideal succession choreography for losing a CEO is for the process of replacing them to be well underway by the time you go public. This doesn’t seem to be the case here and Veon is even having to hastily promote Kjell Morten Johnsen from Head of Major Markets to interim COO to help Burns out.

This latest executive turmoil follows Jon Eddy, Head of Emerging Markets and Mikhail Gerchuk, Head of Eurasia, stepping down in February. “I would like to thank Jon and Mikhail for their strong leadership and commitment over the years,” said Charlier at the time, perhaps using that opportunity to jot down some ideas for his own leaving canned quotes.

Telenor says enough is enough with troubled Veon

Most Norwegians we’ve met to date have been nice, relatively laid back people, but the execs at Telenor have seemingly been pushed to breaking point, resulting in the divestment of Veon.

It’s been in the works for a while, and it would appear Telenor has finally gotten sick of dealing with Veon. There has been ‘debate’ over the future strategic direction of the company, but it won’t be long before the Norwegians finally ditch their final 19.7% stake in Veon.

Telenor has announced it has begun an offering of 90 million Veon shares, roughly a 5.1% stake in the telco, priced at $4.15, with the offering expected to close on September 25. This will leave Telenor holding onto 14.6% of Veon, though plans are to transfer this stake to an exchangeable bond. Telenor will be able to clean its hands of any association.

This should come as little surprise considering the saga which played out in Uzbekistan back in years gone, when the business was known as Vimpelcom. Back in 2015, Telenor announced plans to divest its stake in the business, citing ‘challenging’ conditions. Apparently paying hundreds of millions of dollars to firms controlled by Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov for a leg-up in the country, is a no-no in Oslo.

And while many might view this as an admirable move by a telco wanted to keep its hands clean, let’s not forget Telenor was not completely absent of wrong-doing. A seconded Telenor employee raised concerns of corruption back in 2011, but this news didn’t make it to the CEO until March 2014, and then onto the board in December later that year. From there the memo was lost until October 2015 when it made its way to the Norwegian government, the majority shareholder of Telenor. Negligence or incompetence – we’ll let you decide, but neither should be present.

Telenor is on the verge of getting rid of the headache, which also blamed Uzbekistan for a recent profit warning, and it will receive a nice little $365 million boost in cash in the first instance. Seems a bit backward to be rewarding the telco when you look at the saga from angles, but hey-ho.