We start the week with the biggest headlines in the tech world, giving you a detailed overview of everything you could have missed in the telecom, biotech, and fintech sector. This week, we will look at the 5G Spectrum Auction in Norway, Orange completing its huge acquisition in Romania, the first meeting of the newly appointed EU-US Trade and Technology Council, Starling launching Baas in Europe, Mastercard expanding into BNPL, Acclarent launching the first-ever AI-based ENT technology, new AI-based search engine that attracted all the Wall Street giants, an emergency hotline for APP fraud, 30-country meeting regarding cybersecurity as we start the Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and Bitcoin regaining its strength after a tough month.
Norway has just closed up its 5G spectrum auction with almost half a billion dollars. Four companies have decided to pay a total of 3.89 billion Norwegian kroner ($445.5 million) for the 2.6GHz and 3.6GHz bands in the auction process. As the Norwegian Communications Authority (Nkom) announced, the auction only lasted a few days.
The auction started on Monday and three of the four companies that won the spectrum are dominant players on the Norwegian market. Telenor and Telia both bid over 1 billion NOK across the bands, with the broadband and TV provider Altibox coming in third with a bid of 724.48 million NOK. Altibox focused on a 3.6 GHz band but included TDD frequencies at 2.6 GHz as well. The final winner of the auction was one of the mobile operators in the country, Ice. The company secured 3.6 GHz airwaves for a total of 553.96 million NOK.
All available spectrum has been acquired, amounting to 190 MHz in the 2.6 GHz and 400 MHz in the 3.6 GHz band.
“The assignment of the 2.6 GHz and the 3.6 GHz bands is an important step towards the government goal of high-speed broadband being made available to all households and businesses in Norway,” Nkom said,“Furthermore, winning bidders will be required to provide 5G services in the 3.6 GHz band to industry and other relevant verticals,” the regulator added.
Last week, Orange has finalized its acquisition of a major stake in Telekom Romania Communications (TKR). After announcing the deal at the end of 2020, Orange has been finalizing the details of the acquisition. Romanian state will keep the minority of the shares. Prior to the deal, Orange owned 9% of TKR. The current CEO of Orange Romania, Liudmila Climoc, will remain in charge of the company.
“We are part of a defining moment not only for Orange but for the entire telecoms market in Romania,” she said. “I am very proud that Orange Romania and TKR teams have reached this point. We now move forward together, as a joint force and with a common goal – to be the first choice for convergent services in Romania.
“Together, we will build for our customers a complete offer with extended fixed coverage, mobile services from Orange, including expanding 5G coverage, more varied TV content and ICT solutions that support the digital transformation of businesses and public administrations.”
“Today is a landmark day for Orange as this acquisition will propel Orange Romania forward in its convergence ambitions,” said Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, Deputy CEO in charge of Orange in Europe. “Convergence is the key to our growth across Europe, and Romania is a key part of the Group’s European success story.”
The newly created EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) has had its first meeting where closer collaboration over tech topics has been a key point.
“The European Union and the United States reaffirm the TTC’s objectives to: coordinate approaches to key global technology, economic, and trade issues; and to deepen transatlantic trade and economic relations, basing policies on shared democratic values,” opened the joint statement during the meeting. “We intend to cooperate to effectively address the misuse of technology, to protect our societies from information manipulation and interference, promote secure and sustainable international digital connectivity, and support human rights defenders.” it continued.
During the meeting, several action points have been highlighted. However, we will need to wait and see how the implementation of the vows will look like.
Starling Bank finally decided to expand into Europe, and their proposition is a banking-as-a-service (Baas) package. In H1 of 2022, the package will be launched in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain.
‘Starling-as-a-Service’, will allow businesses to build their financial products on a specially developed banking platform. While Starling will take care of all technical and regulatory requirements, businesses will be able to manage their own savings and current accounts, integrated digital wallets, kids’ cards or debit cards.
“The thriving technology and fintech scene in European markets makes them a great fit for the culture of innovation at Starling, and therefore a natural space for us to offer and develop our solutions in Europe,” CEO Anne Boden said. “We have seen a consistent and growing demand for digital financial services, further accelerated by extended lockdowns and a shift in consumer behaviors in key European markets, and it is clear that Starling can power new and exciting opportunities for businesses across Europe”
BaaS by Starling has already been launched in the UK back in 2018. By 2021, it had 25 payment and banking services customers such as Moneybox, Vitesses, or Raisin.
Boden wrote on LinkedIn “This new service offers our partners the benefit of Starling’s advanced technology, to use as their own. Thanks to embedded finance, businesses as diverse as retailers to utilities, from healthcare to manufacturing, now have the opportunity to derive a significant proportion of their revenues from financial services.”
Mastercard is trying to make its mark in the BNPL market, launching Installments, a payments program for both online and in-store purchases that will initially work across the UK, Australia, and the US. Mastercard Installments is working with Barclays US, Fifth Third, FIS, Galileo, Huntington, Marqeta, SoFi, and Synchrony in the US, and with Qantas Loyalty and Latitude in Australia on the BNPL program.
Members of the program will be able to choose from a number of installment options such as zero percent interest or a pay-in-four scheme.
“At the heart of it, payments come down to choice – and people want more from their money with greater flexibility and control in how they pay and where they shop,” says Craig Vosburg, chief product officer, Mastercard. “Mastercard Installments has been built on our guiding principles to protect consumers and enable choice without sacrificing trust and security. It is a digital-focused way to pay today and tomorrow, delivered through consumer’s most trusted relationships with their banks and other lenders, at merchants of their choice.”
Goldman Sachs, Citi, Morgan Stanley, and Barclays have just invested in AlphaSense, an AI-based market intelligence platform for financial institutions. The startup has raised $180 million in its Series C funding. Viking Global Investors co-led the round together with Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Cowen, and AllianceBernstein have also participated.
AlphaSense uses AI and natural language to extract relevant information from a huge amount of public and private content. To date, the startup has gained over 1800 enterprise customers. The fresh funding will be used to furtherly develop content offerings, expand global and foreign-language content and grow its customer service teams and engineering teams across North America and Europe.
Holger Staude, a managing director within the growth equity business at Goldman Sachs, says: “Just like search engines have become large businesses on the consumer side, we believe AlphaSense has an opportunity to help the business world extract key insights from the vast volumes of unstructured business information.”
UK banks are starting a trial of an emergency hotline that would help to protect customers from APP fraudsters that are posing to be bank employees. In the one-year pilot, the 159 hotlines will be supported by Barclays, Lloyds, NatWest, Santander, and Starling Bank and cover over 70% of all primary account holders in the UK.
The trial starts as APP fraud has become a huge issue during the pandemic, with a 71% increase in APP fraud in the first half of this year alone. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated APP fraud amounted to £355.3 million during that period of time. If the pilot shows to be successful, the Stop Scams UK wants to role 159 as a universal number that would be available for everybody.
“If you think someone is trying to trick you into handing over money or personal detail…stop, hang up and call 159 to speak directly to your bank,” states Stop Scams UK. “159 is the memorable, secure number that contacts you directly to your bank if you think you’re being scammed. 159 works in the same way as 101 for the police or 111 for the NHS. It’s the number you can trust to get you through to your bank, every time.”
Acclarent, Inc. which is a part of the Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies and has become known for creating minimally-invasive Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) technologies, just announced it will launch the first-ever AI-based ENT technology that will make surgical planning and ENT procedures much simpler. In the package, we will find TruDi, TruSeg, and TruPath. TruDi is enabling software-guided navigation and has already been launched in 2018. Now it is supplemented by TruSeg that allows surgeons to apply automatic segmentation to anatomical structures and TruPath and calculates and shows the shorters valid path that will not coss a bone.
“As one of the first ENTs to use TruDi, I immediately recognized the opportunity for this technology to help surgeons avoid unintended consequences and expand access to safe, minimally invasive, long-term solutions to patients in need of sinus surgery,” said Charles Ebert, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist and Professor, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.”Through this innovation, we are maximizing patient care.”
“The launch of this AI-powered software for TruDi is a leap forward in the evolution of image-guided ENT and skull base procedures,” said Jeff Hopkins, Worldwide President, Acclarent, Inc. “Acclarent continues to reimagine what’s possible with ENT navigation and TruDi continues to benefit patients and the ENT community through consistent accuracy, a simple workflow, and pioneering software functionality.”
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month and the U.S President Joe Biden will facilitate a 30-country meeting where the representatives from each country can discuss and organize defenses against ransomware and other cybersecurity threats. Biden also hopes that the meeting will increase the cooperation between the countries.
“Cyber threats can affect every American, every business regardless of size, and every community. That’s why my administration is marshaling a whole-of-nation effort to confront cyber threats,” Biden said in a statement.
After a large number of cyberattacks this year, Biden signed an executive order that aimed at improving cybersecurity in America. He has also established a ransomware task force.
“This October, even as we recognize how much work remains to be done and that maintaining strong cybersecurity practices is ongoing work, I am confident that the advancements we have put in place during the first months of my Administration will enable us to build back better – modernizing our defenses and securing the technology on which our enduring prosperity and our security rely,” Biden said.
To say that crypto had a rough month would be an understatement. After a sudden and practically full ban in China, regulatory confusion, and volatility, Bitcoin alongside the other major cryptocurrencies was struggling throughout September. However, Bitcoin started October with a spike of over 10%, its biggest rally since July. The other cryptocurrencies have followed the trend, with Ethereum, Cardano, and Dogecoin all going up by at least 6% on Friday.
“Traditionally, with Bitcoin, September is the weakest month, so yes, we’re finally out of September,” CryptosRus Founder George Tung told Yahoo Finance. “Also there’s just a lot going on. Yesterday we had a $3 billion options expiry for Bitcoin. That could have been holding Bitcoin back this final week but now we’re in October and things are looking a whole lot better.”
The spike can also be contributed to Gary Gensler, the Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) who gave his support for a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) for U.S. investors on Wednesday. Moreover, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell who has traditionally been critical of crypto has said he had “no intention” of banning crypto. He does, however, still see a need for regulations.
“Crypto is rallying today because of regulation,” Matthew Hougan Chief Investment Officer of the crypto asset manager, Bitwise, told Yahoo Finance. “We should get used to that sentence because I think you are going to hear it a lot in the next year.”
Bakkt President Adam White told Yahoo Finance, “Financial offerings like regulated custody for crypto assets and futures allow institutions to ease into the sector in a way that feels familiar and safe”