Cignal AI: Record Cloud and Colo Optical Hardware Spending in 2Q18

by Andres Schmitt

Ciena Leads Sales to North American Cloud/Colo Operators; Huawei Sees Strong Demand from Chinese Cloud Giants

Sales of optical equipment to the cloud and colo market grew rapidly, reaching record levels in 2Q18, according to the most recent Optical Customer Markets Report issued by networking component and equipment market research firm Cignal AI. Cloud and colo operators such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon still account for only a fraction of global optical equipment spending but were nearly a quarter of all North American operator purchases during 2Q18.

“While cloud and colo spending is still not near traditional telco demand for optical transport equipment, the balance is shifting. This is particularly true in North America, where cloud and colo operators now provide both technical and financial leadership to the supply chain,” said Andrew Schmitt, Directing Analyst at Cignal AI.

Released quarterly, the Optical Customer Markets Report quantifies optical equipment sales to five key customer markets – incumbent, wholesale, cable MSO, cloud and colo, and enterprise and government. The current report includes results through the 2Q18 and details equipment vendor market share for sales to cloud operators. Regional forecasts, based on expected spending trends by customer market, are also updated.

Additional key findings in the 2Q18 Optical Customer Markets Report include:

  • Incumbent spending accounts for the largest share of all optical spending in the market. In fact, incumbent spending in China is as much as all spending by other incumbent operators worldwide, combined. Outlays by EMEA incumbents increased again in the most recent quarter.
  • Cable MSO spending in North America continues to be very strong and grew both quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year.
  • Ciena led other vendors in direct sales to the cloud/colo market led by strength from the WaveServer platform. Also, newly-combined Infinera and Coriant became the second largest supplier of optical equipment to these customers. Huawei also continues to grow its market share as a result of growing demand from Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.

About the Optical Customer Markets ReportThe Optical Customer Markets Report tracks optical equipment spending by end customer market type and provides forecasts based on expected spending trends on a regional basis. Deliverables include an Excel file with complete data set, PowerPoint summary and Optical Equipment Active Insight.

The report includes revenue-based market size for all end customer markets across all regions, with market share for sales to the cloud and colo segment broken out on a worldwide basis. Vendors examined include Adtran, ADVA, Ciena, Cisco, Coriant, Cyan, ECI, Ekinops, Fiberhome, Fujitsu Networks, Huawei, Infinera, Juniper Networks, NEC, Nokia, Padtec, TE Conn, Transmode, Xtera and ZTE.

Full report details, as well as other articles and presentations, are available to users who register for a free account on the Cignal AI website.

About Cignal AI

Cignal AI provides active and insightful market research for the networking component and equipment market and the market’s end customers. Our work blends expertise from a variety of disciplines to create a uniquely informed perspective on the evolution of networking communications.

IHS Markit: Video to Drive Demand for Edge Computing Services

Edge computing will get its primary propulsion from demand for video services, IHS Markit found in a survey. The Linux Foundation commissioned IHS Markit to identify the top apps and revenue opportunities for edge compute services.  Video content delivery was cited by 92% of respondents as the top driver of edge computing, while augmented/virtual reality, autonomous vehicles and the industrial internet of things (IIoT) all tied for second place.

During a keynote address at this week’s Layer123 SDN NFV World Congress at The Hague, IHS Markit’s Michael Howard, executive director research and analysis, carrier networks (and a long time colleague of this author), presented some of the results from the market research firm’s survey of edge compute application survey respondents.

“The edge ‘is in’ these days in conversations, conferences and considerations—and there are many definitions,” Howard wrote in an email to FierceTelecom. “Our conclusion is that there are many edges, but as an industry, I believe we can coalesce around a time-related distance to the end user, device or machine, which indicates a short latency, on which many edge applications rely.  The other major driver for edge compute is big bandwidth, principally video, where caching and content delivery networks save enormous amounts of video traffic on access, metro, and core networks.”

IHS Markit defined edge compute as being within 20 milliseconds of the end user, device or machine. When compared to Internet Exchanges, telcos have an advantage at the edge because they are much closer to the users via their central offices, cell sites, cell backhaul aggregation, fixed backhaul and street cabinets.

Integrated communications providers and over-the-top providers have partial coverage for edge compute with distributed data centers that are within the 20 milliseconds to 50 milliseconds range, while telcos can hit 5 milliseconds to 20 milliseconds.

Among the top services that are driving edge compute, video content delivery, which included 360 video and venues, was first at 92% followed by a three-way tie among autonomous vehicles, augmented reality/virtual reality and industrial internet of things/automated factory all at 83%. Gaming was next at 75%, with distributed virtualized mobile core and fixed access in another tie with private LTE at 58%.

Other findings from the survey:

  • Surveillance and supply chain management each garnered 33%, while smart cities was last at 25%.
  • When it comes to which edge services will garner the most revenue, distributed virtualized mobile core and fixed access, private LTE, gaming, video content delivery and industrial IoT all tied at the top of the survey results.
  • Supply chain management, autonomous vehicles and AR/VR tied in the next grouping while surveillance and smart cities tied for last.
  • Consumer-driven revenue at the edge includes gaming and video content delivery networks while enterprise-driven revenues will include private LTE, industrial IoT and supply chain.
  • Overall, many of the edge deployments will initially be justified by cost savings first followed by revenue-bearing applications.
  • Edge compute apps will start out in limited or contained rollouts with full deployment taking years and investments across several areas, according to the survey.

Although edge compute brings services closer to end users and alleviates bandwidth constraints, it’s complex. Even a single edge compute location is complex with elements of network functions virtualization, mobile edge computing and fixed mobile convergence technologies that can spread across hundreds of thousands locations.

There are also authorization, billing and reconciliation issues that need to be addressed across various domains, which could be resolved using blockchain to create virtual ledgers.

Further, there’s a long investment road ahead to fully deploy edge compute. Areas that comprise the top tier of investments for edge compute include multi-access edge compute, integration, edge connectivity (two-way data flows, SD-WAN services, low latency and bandwidth), 5G spectrum and engineering.


Earlier this year, AT&T Foundry launched an edge computing test zone in Palo Alto, California, to kick the tires on AR, VR and cloud-driven gaming.  As part of the second phase, AT&T Foundry is expanding its edge test zone footprint to cover all of the San Francisco Bay Area, allowing for increased application mobility and broader collaboration potential.

Intel & Ovum study: 90% of 5G data will be Video; AR and VR to reach tipping point

A new report from Intel and Ovum contains some eye opening  expectations for the growth of 5G cellular networks over the next decade.  Video will account for 90 percent of 5G data use, but 5G-powered VR and AR will reach a tipping point. By 2028, gaming — not industrial use — will account for 90 percent of 5G AR data.

The report claims 5G is about to drive $1.3 trillion in new revenues to media and entertainment companies over the next decade. Ovum forecasts that user demand for video data alone will grow from a monthly average of 11.7GB per 5G subscriber in 2019 to 84.4GB in 2028, at that point accounting for 90 percent of all 5G traffic. That’s not just because videos will improve in resolution; they’ll also include additional embedded media and immersive experiences that improve the experience, and video viewing time will increase.

Within a decade, the global media industry stands to gain $1.3 trillion from 5G, according to the “5G Economics of Entertainment Report” commissioned by Intel and conducted by Ovum. (Credit: Ovum/Intel Corporation)Within a decade, the global media industry stands to gain $1.3 trillion from 5G, according to the “5G Economics of Entertainment Report” commissioned by Intel and conducted by Ovum ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The report states that as early as 2025, 57 percent of global wireless media revenues will be generated by using the super-high-bandwidth capabilities of 5G networks and the devices that run on 5G. The low latency of these networks means that no video will stall or stop – live streaming and large downloads will happen in the blink of an eye.

The report points to the following breakouts in revenue as 5G networks overtake 3G and 4G by offering new capabilities:

  • 2022: nearly 20 percent of total revenues – $47 billion of $253 billion
  • 2025: more than 55 percent of total revenues – $183 billion of $321 billion
  • 2028: nearly 80 percent of total revenues – $335 billion of $420 billion

How Media Demand Drives Network Evolution:

The “5G Economics of Entertainment Report” forecasts that 5G will accelerate content consumption, including mobile media, mobile advertising, home broadband and TV, and improve experiences across a broad range of new immersive and interactive technologies – unleashing the full potential of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and new media.

The average monthly traffic per 5G subscriber will grow from 11.7GB in 2019 to 84.4GB per month in 2028, at which point video will account for 90 percent of all 5G traffic.

Intel also expects major gains for both VR and AR, suggesting that “a new dawn of VR-driven experiences will emerge as early as 2025,” thanks to 5G. Beyond freeing players from cabled headsets, the report predicts that sensory experiences will be added to VR games, whereby “sensations such as heat and pressure could be bundled into a weapons upgrade in an action game.”

Augmented reality could evolve considerably as a result of 5G. The initial applications sound modest, as the report expects AR will be used to connect people to existing media through “virtual items, virtual characters, and augmented contextual information” — steps we’re already seeing with Star Wars and similar “AR stickers.” But by 2028, AR games are predicted to make up “more than 90 percent of 5G AR revenues,” or around $36 billion globally. That’s a fascinating suggestion, given that AR today is all but exclusively seeing interest from industrial and enterprise customers.

Despite the prediction of heavy video demand, Intel sees games as the key driver for 5G: “Gaming will be at the forefront of 5G-led innovations.” Initially, users will see mobile cloud gaming become a reality, as cloud-based servers do the heavy graphics and AI lifting for less powerful mobile devices. By 2028, the companies expect that 5G mobile games revenue will be $100 billion per year.

Much of the past year’s discussion of 5G has been on its potential to transform transportation, cities, and industries, with carriers, chipmakers, and even government officials suggesting it will bring about a “fourth industrial revolution.” But if today’s report is correct, the vast majority of 5G data won’t be self-driving car controls or coordinated IoT sensors, but rather video, VR, and AR. In part, that’s because entertainment content is data-intense: The report notes that one minute of AR will consume 33 times more traffic than one minute of 480p video.

According to Venture Beat’s Jeremy Horowitz, the challenge for Intel is to actually get 5G products into the marketplace. The now #2 global semiconductor company has been working on 5G modems and has shown early prototype devices, but it appears at this point to be focused on equipping computers and larger network hardware devices with 5G as rivals such as Qualcomm concentrate on 5G smartphones.

Posted in 5G

Should Web Giants Partner with Telcos to bring Broadband to 3rd World?

Facebook along with Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel Ltd.’s Ugandan unit and Mauritius-based Bandwidth & Cloud Services Group, has deployed nearly 500 miles of fiber-optic cable across the isolated northwest of Uganda. The project, begun in early 2017 and completed at the end of last year, has expanded the region’s network capacity, providing faster internet access to an area with some three million people, many of whom live in towns still haunted by memories of the three-decade insurgency led by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.

The Ugandan cable is the largest terrestrial network Facebook has helped construct in Africa and part of what the company describes as a broader push to connect the approximately 3.8 billion people who are still without internet around the world.

The move comes as Facebook’s user growth slows in developed markets like the U.S. and Europe. The social media giant’s presence on the continent remains small compared with other regions, but the Menlo Park, Calif.–based company said its strategy to get more people onto a faster and more robust internet will plug more of sub-Saharan Africa into the global economy.

Indeed, the summer of 2018 brought different fortunes to attempts by Facebook and Google to offer broadband services using high-flying drones and balloons (atmospheric satellites) to the unserved in remote rural areas.

GlobalData, a data and analytics company, feels that webscale giants need to partner with telcos globally to address the affordability challenge of reaching out to the unconnected in rural markets with atmospheric satellites.

Atmospheric satellites fit in the space between true satellites commonly used for communications and ground-based networks. Their theoretical advantage over satellites is much lower cost. Launching a balloon or a drone and equipping it with a radio base station represents a much cheaper way of covering large swaths of land. Considering one-third of the world population remains unconnected, the lower costs associated with balloon- or drone-based coverage is compelling.

However in June 2018, following several setbacks over a period of four years, Facebook abandoned developing its own high-flying solar-powered drones (Aquila project) for delivering Internet. However, the California-based social media giant said that it will focus on working with partners like Airbus on high altitude platform station (HAPS) system, which is capable of beaming down high-speed Internet to the unserved in 3rd world countries.

On the other hand Alphabet, the parent company of Google, turned its Loon balloon project into an independent company and announced its first commercial project with partly-state owned Telkom Kenya in July 2018. The partners plan to launch balloon-based 4G/LTE services commercially to parts of central Kenya, starting from 2019.

               Alphabet’s Project Loon uses helium balloons to bring internet access to remote locations


Google used Project Loon in Puerto Rico last year after two hurricanes destroyed much of the telecom infrastructure on the island.  Project Loon’s pilot deployment with Telkom Kenya may provide the clearest test of whether atmospheric satellites can really work. This puts pressure on Loon to demonstrate it has a viable technology.

Emir Halilovic, Telecom Technology and Software Analyst at GlobalData, said:

“Things get more complicated when the practical challenges of covering the unconnected masses with drone- or balloon-based mobile signals are considered. For starters, the potential customers for services provided from atmospheric satellites are not concentrated in one part of the world; rather, they are spread across remote, rural, or tribal areas, in many different countries and continents.”

Truly addressing this group would require the participation of multiple operators in dozens of countries. Moreover, most of the unconnected usually do not live outside areas where they can get mobile service; they just cannot afford a mobile plan. Drones and balloons do little to address the ’affordability’ challenge.

Halilovic concludes:

“Still, there are reasons to continue to pursue atmospheric satellites to provide coverage to the underserved rural communities, which could use internet connection to improve access to medical services in isolated locations, for example. Another use case for atmospheric satellites is quick restoration of communication services in natural disasters. Telcos should therefore continue to test atmospheric satellites to support development of such services.”

Critics say Facebook’s ventures into less-developed markets could undermine net neutrality by channeling traffic to its own platform and away from competitors. An earlier effort by Facebook to expand internet access in the developing world faltered in 2016, when India’s telecommunications regulator effectively banned the company from offering free access to a low-data version of Facebook and selected websites and apps. Governments across Africa—including in Uganda—are rolling back internet freedoms and cracking down on social media.

Facebook, which declined to comment on the cost of the Ugandan cable, says its Africa strategy is a long-term effort. Analysts say the lack of connectivity on the continent is a central impediment to increasing economic growth: Removing barriers to commerce and trade should create more opportunities for consumers to spend.

“It’s not a philanthropic venture. It’s a strategic investment with a long-term goal,” said Ebele Okobi, Facebook’s director of Africa public policy. “We see this as an enabler of our business, not as a way to gain advantages.”

Dexter Thillien, a London-based analyst with Fitch Solutions, said Facebook, conscious of the risks, is still testing the waters in Africa.   “It’s where they can make the least money, at least right now,” he said.

The word “Africa” appears just once in Facebook’s 2017 annual report, to inform readers that the continent is included, along with the Middle East and Latin America, under its “Rest of World” designation.

Since the fiber rollout, Airtel Uganda has installed 33 new telecom towers in northern Uganda, while 71 towers have been upgraded to 3G and another 43 towers now beam 4G, which improves users’ ability to download and stream quickly, the company said. Previously, most places in the region had 2G or no service at all—a far cry from developed economies, which are racing to roll out 5G networks. More than half of Africa’s mobile broadband connections remain 2G (which AT&T has discontinued in the U.S.).

“That cable is fast for internet. That means communications will be much easier,” said Patricia Akello, project manager for Youth Alive, a Gulu-based provider of youth HIV counseling and testing. “Internet has become a necessity: Allowing young people access will educate them. They’ll be better able to prevent HIV…and they can be educators to others in the community.”

Meanwhile, telcos like AT&T are testing drones to act as temporary cell sites after a disaster, Inside Towers reported. BAE Systems’ PHASA-35 could bring internet access to the most remote corners of the world,  Martin Topping, delivery director at BAE Systems said: “Essentially any payload that can fit within the capacity can be put inside it.  That could be 5G and 6G communications, border surveillance, agriculture and forestry, famine relief – it’s infinite. The vehicle is the carrier – the transit van. Spying is quite a niche usage.”


AT&T’s Gordon Mansfield on 5G Spectrum, millimeter wave, and Project AirGig

AT&T will use 700MHz low-band and 2.3GHz WCS spectrum along with millimeter wave spectrum for its 5G rollout, said Gordon Mansfield of AT&T.  Separately, the company plans to use its millimeter wave Project AirGig to reach rural areas.

Mansfield  told a Light Reading event audience that AT&T won’t be solely reliant on 28GHz mmWave as it moves toward 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 5G New Radio-based service,

He also appeared to indirectly criticize the 5G-based fixed wireless access service from wireless telco rival Verizon Communications Inc. “They have to go ahead and rip out the equipment at the customer homes when they want to update,” Mansfield said, not naming Verizon’s 5G Home Service, a fixed wireless offering based on the operator’s proprietary 5GTF specification, which launched on October 1, 2018.

AT&T's Gordon Mansfield at the Light Reading event

                                AT&T’s Gordon Mansfield at the Light Reading event in New York City.


Speeding up the deployment of mmWave for the mobile rather than fixed 5G will require more infrastructure integration, as Verizon seemed to acknowledge at the event.

AT&T is hopeful that its millimeter wave “Project AirGig” will be able to provide gigabit-speed backhaul in the future, especially in rural areas. The AirGig technology wirelessly rides alongside medium-voltage power lines and uses newly designed “low-cost” plastic antennas for connectivity. (See Project AirGig Goes Down to Georgia ).  At the moment, “it’s a research project,” Mansfield added.

Mansfield pointed out that AT&T has already been “serving users at Magnolia Silos with [fixed] broadband 5G” since December 2017. AT&T announced that it would hold a wireless trial at the Magnolia Market at The Silos shopping complex in Waco, Texas, on December 17, 2017. The operator is using millimeter wave spectrum to deliver connectivity to shoppers, distributed via WiFi.

AT&T is expected to launch 3GPP mobile 5G in parts of 12 US markets in “late” in 2018.


From Twitter: Gordon Mansfield discusses ‘s 5G Evolution technology on October 9th , chatting about the company’s vision, the technology’s impact, and its possibilities across different industries.

References (videos):


CenturyLink offers Multi Cloud Connect L2 Service for Fiber-fed Buildings

CenturyLink has unveiled its Dynamic Connections, a Layer 2 (L2) based offering that provides access to many different cloud computing services. The third biggest U.S. wire-line carrier has partnered with Amazon Web Services and AWS GovCloud, saying it will add connections to Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure in coming weeks, then will add IBM, Oracle and other cloud computing services.

With growing day-to-day operations, organizations need a fast and easier way to connect their locations and data centers to cloud service providers. CenturyLink says they offer a complete portfolio of solutions for cloud connectivity. The company’s global access and extensive wavelength, Ethernet and IP VPN connectivity options are designed to meet today’s hybrid cloud requirements.

CenturyLink says they will provide high-performance connections to AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, and other leading public and private clouds along with more than 2,200 third-party data centers.

Dynamic Connections is available to enterprise and government customers in fiber-fed buildings globally.  CenturyLink has about 130,000 of those today, via an optical Ethernet port.

According to CenturyLink, the customer needs the right hardware and the right size port, but assuming that, they can turn up bandwidth from “as small as 10 Megabits/sec to up to 3 Gigabits/sec,” says Paul Savill, senior vice president of core network and technology solutions at CenturyLink.

“They would use log-in credentials to pull an inventory of all Ethernet ports they have at that enterprise in their locations across the world and they can then see that either in a map view or a list view,” Savill explains. “Then they can drill down to whatever location they want to connect- pick that Ethernet port and then pick the cloud service provider they want, at wherever location that is in the world, whatever data center it is running in, and then indicate the size of the bandwidth.”

Savill said that competing multi-cloud connect offerings –from AT&T’s NetBond, Verizon’s Secure Cloud Interconnect and Orange Business Services’ private and public cloud connections, etc. “can’t match our scale and flexibility.”  [There is also Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric].

As a L2 service, it doesn’t touch the Internet, which thereby provides greater security. In addition, CenturyLink is offering an open API for the service so that enterprise customers can build it into their own back-office systems and use those for provisioning instead of the portal.

Editor’s Note:

After CenturyLink acquired Savvis in 2011, the combined company attempted to promote its own cloud computing service using MPLS IP VPN for customer access to it.  This new multi-cloud connect service is a huge improvement over that earlier solution.  It will be interesting to see how it competes with AT&T Netbond, Verizon’s Secure Cloud Interconnect service, and Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric.


Huawei launches “5G Power Solution” for global wireless telcos

Huawei has launched what it says is the industry’s first full-range 5G power solutions for wireless network operators which will address an expected 100% increase in 5G energy consumption when compared to 4G power dissipation.

The 5G Power series of products are designed to deliver an end-to-end, scalable energy solution for both newly built and upgradeable cell sites.

It has been designed utilizing technology including peak shaving, linked voltage boosting and energy slicing to provide a ‘one site one cabinet’ design.

Huawei said its research suggests that more than 70% of cell sites will face challenges such as insufficient power, battery and distribution capacity, and more than 30% of sites need grid modernization to match the power demands of 5G.  Its solution has been designed to help network operators reduce capex and opex while improving energy reliability to meet the high reliability and low latency requirements of future mobile applications.

Huawei launched 5G Power series solutions to ensure that energy evolution is simpler, more reliable and more efficient in the 5G network process.  Huawei believes that site synergy, network synergy, business synergy will be the direction for telecom energy in the future.

From its press release (reference below):

With the design concept of ‘one site, one cabinet’ and ‘one band, one blade power,’ Huawei’s new Power Solution adopts innovative technology of peak shaving, linked voltage boosting and energy slicing, and fully considers the capacity expansion of cooling and battery backup. Facing the capacity expansion requirement in the future, Huawei Power Solution enables carriers to avoid energy modernization and get 5G network overlaid quickly.

“Based on our deep understanding of pain points carriers are facing in the progress of network evolving, Huawei 5G Power Solution achieve end-to-end synergy from wireless network to telecom energy, which will further enable carriers to build networks quickly, reduce site energy consumption, and maximize their investment value,” Huawei president of telecom energy Tao Hongming said.

“As a telecom energy supplier who is able to provide end-to-end ICT solutions, Huawei is willing to work with carriers and industry partners on continuous innovation and exploration, and jointly solve the energy challenges in 5G era,” Tao added.


WSJ: 5G Race, Airwave Auctions Are the Next Rivalry for Global Telcos

— by Stu Woo and Daphne Zhang with Eric Sylvers contributing to this article.

Governments start selling access to spectrum for new mobile networks that would be much faster than those of today.


A new battle for cellular airwaves (frequency spectrum) is under way as governments around the world start to auction off spectrum for mobile coverage that could power near-instant video downloads and help run factories, control gadgets and navigate driver-less cars.

Countries have long sold airwave rights for cellular service within their borders but places like Britain and Spain this year held their first major auctions for radio frequencies needed to make so-called 5G cellular networks, which could be much faster than today’s mobile networks, a reality. Italy made a splash earlier this month with a blockbuster sale—spinning off $7.6 billion of frequencies to several big European carriers, including Telecom Italia SpA and Vodafone Group PLC.

In June, South Korean mobile operators snapped up $3.3 billion of spectrum there. Next month, the Federal Communications Commission plans to hold the first major U.S. auction for 5G-friendly airwaves.

Editor’s Note:

Other countries 5G auctions and amount received for same:

UK $1.8B, Spain 0.51B, Ireland 0.09B, and Finland 0.09B.  Note that some governments sell spectrum in phases, rather than all at once.


The frequencies sold at these auctions are the ones that governments and carriers think will be crucial for a broad rollout of 5G, which promises to eventually replace today’s fastest 4G networks.
The broad contours of how 5G will work, once it is fully operational, is only now starting to emerge, and some industry executives and analyst are skeptical of its potential, saying the technology might not be much different than today’s 4G. U.S. carriers plan to roll out their first iterations of 5G networks in a few cities in the next three months.

Cellular airwaves are a public resource akin to a lake that provides water to businesses and homes. Governments reserve chunks of spectrum for everything that requires wireless connectivity: radio and TV broadcasts, satellites, military communications, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and even remote controls and garage-door openers.

Only a limited amount of airwaves are suitable for cellular service, so wireless providers such as Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. compete fiercely for them. In general, a wireless carrier with more spectrum can provide faster service and serve more people compared with a competitor with less spectrum. It also can base advertising campaigns around that fact.

Demand for 5G airwaves, or spectrum, even in this early stage, is heating up. Auctions—including for 3G and 4G and potentially in a decade for 6G—typically sell 10- or 20-year leases to airwaves, so if a carrier misses out now, it may have to wait a decade or two for its next chance.

“If you don’t have spectrum, you can’t provide wireless service,” said Steve Blythe, who heads spectrum strategy for Orange, a French carrier that operates throughout Europe and Africa.

Carriers say 5G networks will be made up of loads of small antennas much more densely packed into populated areas. Those antennas will need to operate over different frequencies than those used in today’s networks. Generally, sought-after bandwidth will be capable of transmitting more data, but over shorter distances.

Governments in each country typically hold auctions to lease channels of airwaves to wireless carriers, and proceeds go into government coffers.

Cellular providers are closely watching auctions even in countries where they don’t have a presence. In addition to trying to lock in rights to the spectrum, carriers also can learn bidding strategies and lobby regulators on what they consider to be the best auction rules.

Wireless auctions already vary widely in terms of how they work around the world, and the heightened interest in 5G has drawn extra scrutiny to some. In the Italian auction that ended Tuesday, the government reaped more than double the revenue it had forecast, drawing criticism from one prominent carrier.

Four wireless carriers essentially bought 200 chunks of airwaves that they coveted for 5G networks. But instead of auctioning off individual packages, the Italian government said wireless carriers had to buy one of four big bundles. Two bundles featured 80 chunks of airwaves each, and two packages had 20 chunks each.

Bidding for the two larger packages was fierce. In the end, the carriers spent €6.55 billion ($7.55 billion) in the auction—more than double the €2.8 billion the Italian government had written into its budget.

Vodafone, which operates in more than 20 countries and is the world’s No. 2 wireless carrier by subscribers, won one of the 80-chunk packages, spending €2.4 billion in the overall auction. But the high price it forked over caused grumbling at the London headquarters.

“Auctions should be designed to balance fiscal requirements with the need for investment,” said Vodafone Chief Executive Nick Read, in a statement. He warned against future “artificial auction constructs.”

A spokesman for Italy’s ministry of economic development, which conducted the auction, declined to comment. European wireless executives said they believed the auction’s cost was an outlier compared with other countries because both Italy’s government and wireless industry face unique circumstances.

Posted in 5G

BT’s EE Launches 5G Test Network in London using Huawei Equipment

BT-owned mobile operator EE has launched a 5G test network in Canary Wharf, London ahead of a full commercial rollout next year.  As the cUK’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, the launch by EE is a landmark moment in the UK’s path to 5G.

Fotis Karonis, 5G Technology Lead at BT Group, said:

“This is the latest milestone in our 5G rollout – a live test of our 5G network, in a hugely busy ‘hotspot’, where we know there’s going to be demand from customers for increased mobile capacity.

With constant upgrades to 4G, and laying the foundations for 5G, we’re working to always be able to deliver what our customers need – both consumers and the vertical industries that will make the greatest use of 5G.

We were UK pioneers with 4G and today we saw the UK’s first live connections on 5G – this is a huge step forward for our digital infrastructure.”

EE announced it would be launching the 5G network back in June, promising it to be the UK’s first proper test. Some expected mobile operator O2 to beat it after plans to launch its own test bed at the O2 Arena, but EE was first to market.

The current network covers Montgomery Square in Canary Wharf and was selected by EE for its high footfall and data usage. Some 150,000 people visit the square each day, providing a better test of how the network will perform in high traffic areas.

Mark Nallen, Head of Technology and Innovation at Canary Wharf Group, commented:

“Staying at the forefront of connectivity and new technologies is critical to our community, and that’s why we’re partnering with BT Group to support delivery of 5G.

The consumers who live and work here will benefit from being better connected, and the enterprises based here will have the chance to partner with BT Group to understand the full capabilities of 5G.”

The equipment at the site will also be hooked up to a lab core network, which functions as  a replica of EE’s commercial core network, and will link up to other test sites as and when they come online. Walling it off also means that it’s possible to test 5G in whatever ways are necessary without having any impact on existing services.

Another testbed is set to launch in Shoreditch later this year, which will present different challenges to the Montgomery Square tests. Mainly because it isn’t as ‘clean’ an area. Exactly when it will happen isn’t clear yet.

EE is using network equipment by Huawei for its test; along with 3.4 GHz spectrum it won in regulator Ofcom’s auction earlier this year.  The use of Huawei’s equipment continues to be a controversial subject.

In Europe, Huawei is relatively welcome and its highly-regarded equipment used by many operators. Australia, however, recently took the decision to follow the U.S. in banning the Chinese vendor’s equipment over national security concerns.

The U.S. and Australia are part of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence sharing partnership which also includes the UK, Canada, and New Zealand. The US is said to be pressuring its partners to follow suit.

Last month, Canadian security officials went on record to say the country has the necessary safeguards in place not to follow the bans of the US and Australia.  Canada is attempting to make the case to its partners that excluding telecoms equipment manufacturers leads to an increased security risk. If a specific vendor’s equipment is compromised, it would represent a larger proportion of the network.

Rather than ban Huawei, the UK and Canada have both established labs where security officials test equipment for potential vulnerabilities.

Testing equipment rather than banning seems to be a more sensible approach. This week, India announced it would be testing Huawei 5G gear. Competition is good for prices and innovation, while bans would prevent companies such as EE from accessing potentially class-leading equipment.


3 Network Equipment Vendors Spin Off Video Units

Decisions by Cisco, Ericsson and Nokia to spin off video technology units represent an attempt to better compete with nimble startups, analysts say.

It’s indicative of transition in a competitive, confusing sector that provides myriad services to the consumer video market – from encryption to caching to streaming to storage.

“There are so many companies out there chasing too few dollars,” said London-based media and technology analyst Paolo Pescatore, noting “hundreds” of them at the latest NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) meeting occupying the entire upper South Hall. Many are small. To stand out, they advertise, but don’t always deliver on the hottest trends, from Artificial Intelligence to Blockchain.

“Now, everyone does Blockchain. But are they genuinely doing it? Are they genuinely doing Big Data? For many [customers], trying to work with them is tough,” he said. “There needs to be a reality check across the board.”

There is, and it started at the top for three big players whose corporate parents have not seen adequate returns. Executives at the new standalone companies—Synamedia (spun up from Cisco’s Service Provider Video Solutions business), Mediakind (the new Ericsson media solutions) and Velocix (the result of Nokia selling off its IP Video business)—insist that operating independently is key to performing better.

“As a private, independent company, Synamedia will live and breathe video and that single focus will benefit us and our customers,” said Yves Padrines, incoming CEO of Synamedia.

Cisco agreed to sell its Service Provider Video Software Solutions unit to U.K. private equity firm Permira in May for a reported $1 billion in a deal expected to close by early next year. Rebranded as Synamedia, it includes Cisco’s Infinite Video Platform, cloud digital video recording, video processing, video security, video middleware and other services. Many of the businesses were originally part of NDS, a video and security specialist Cisco acquired in 2012 for $5 billion.

Cisco will retain some video technology for networking like WebEx, which facilitates video and web conferencing, webinars, and screen sharing.

Padrines has three priorities: integrating broadband and broadcast so pay-TV operators can embrace IP and OTT; helping customers secure revenue through piracy prevention, rapid detection and response; and using data on viewer behavior and content to help clients generate fresh revenue through targeted advertising.

He said Synamedia’s “thousands” of employees worldwide will prioritize R&D and developing local solutions for local markets. London is the headquarters with staff in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Belgium, Israel, India and China.

Cisco’s move followed Ericsson’s decision last January to sell a majority stake in its Media Solutions division to private equity firm One Equity Partners. The unit also got a snappier name, MediaKind, in July and a coming-out party at IBC last month. The deal hasn’t closed yet either as MediaKind carefully decouples from its parent company, market by market, said Arun Bhikshesvaran, chief marketing officer.

He said MediaKind staffers were in 120 of the 140 countries where Ericsson has “legal entities,” which the spinoff couldn’t replicate. In a complex process, the group narrowed the number of its legal entities to about 30 worldwide, with staffers reporting in from other areas.

“We had to figure out how to work in an agile manner, like a startup, but not [being] a startup,” Bhikshesvaran said. “What we consciously decided to do is to do this right from the beginning instead of creating an entity and fixing it later.” MediaKind will launch with 1,700 employees.

Bhikshesvaran said the relationship with Ericsson—which is retaining a hefty 49% interest in the business—will preserve the companies’ “combined heritage of video and mobility.”

Nokia is keeping an unspecified but smaller minority stake in Velocix. Cisco is selling Synamedia outright.

MediaKind, based in Plano, Texas, will be melding its businesses and focusing on R&D to address shifts in the media sector. Over the years, it has invested heavily in a collection of media properties, including Apex, Azuki Systems, Envivio, Fabrix, HyCGroup, Microsoft Mediaroom and Tandberg Television, but has acknowledged it did a poor job integrating them.

Bhikshesvaran described the current transition in the industry in part as moving to standalone software that can run on different kinds of commercial hardware, and helping clients migrate to the Cloud. MediaKind recently unveiled MediaKind Universe and announced a handful of global contracts with CogecoConnexion, Digicel, TotalPlay and TangerineGlobal.

Nokia’s IP video business, Velocix, the smallest of the three with about 300 employees, was sold in September to Volaris in a deal that will close by year end. It was the first media acquisition by the Toronto-based software company.

Nokia remains a Global Channel Partner for Velocix, which is focused on video and IP delivery and on storage technology. Velocix chief, Paul Larbey, said a core mission is to continue its work to make streaming video as smooth as broadcast.

He’s upbeat about shifts in the media industry, which he said have boosted business over the past six months. The group has added 12 new customers and increased traffic.

“Operators are starting to invest in new services—moving from analysis into the implementation phase,” he said. “There’s a nice head of steam in the development of product devices and services.”

As a standalone entity, Velocix can better hone its operations and sales. “Video is very specialized. It has a very technically oriented sales cycle. So being part of a big company” is not ideal, he said.

Larbey called Volaris “a nice, stable home,” noting that private equity firms like the ones that acquired Velocix’ larger rivals generally seek an exit in 3 to 5 years through an IPO or sale. Volaris is looking to expand and will be a buyer of assets, he predicted.  The industry is still in flux, said Pescatore, but it could be worse.

“You would be worried if they [parent companies] had written them off and closed these businesses. But private investors have come in and believe they can make a success where the giants have failed,” he said.

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