China Telecom is the largest fixed line operator in China, state owned, and bidding to become the third telecommunications network operator in the Philippines. Two weeks ago, researchers found that the company has been hacking into internet networks in the United States and hijacking data from countless users, a study has found.
The research, conducted jointly by scholars from the US Naval War College and Tel Aviv University, discovered that the China government, acting through China Telecom, has been engaged in data hacking even though it had entered into a pact with the U.S. in 2015 to stop cyber operations aimed at intellectual property theft.
Oracle’s Internet Intelligence division has just confirmed the findings of the academic paper published two weeks ago that accused China of “hijacking the vital internet backbone of western countries.”
Doug Madory, Director of Oracle’s Internet Analysis division (formerly Dyn), confirmed that China Telecom has, indeed, engaged in internet traffic “misdirection.” “I don’t intend to address the paper’s claims around the motivations of these actions,” said Madori. “However, there is truth to the assertion that China Telecom (whether intentionally or not) has misdirected internet traffic (including out of the United States) in recent years. I know because I expended a great deal of effort to stop it in 2017,” Madori said.
Image Courtesy of Oracle
Madori then goes on to detail several of China Telecom’s BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) route “misdirections,” most of which have involved hijacking US-to-US traffic and sending it via mainland China before returning it to the U.S.
Verizon APAC errors had a knock-on effect, Madori explained: “Verizon APAC … were announcing [routes] to the internet on behalf of their customers. A couple of AS hops away, China Telecom was mishandling them – announcing them in a manner that would cause internet traffic destined for those IP address ranges to flow back through China Telecom’s network.”
Indeed, the researchers found that China Telecom uses BGPs in order to carry out their data intrusions. Created in the early 1980s, BGP protocols do not feature any security controls, often resulting in misdirected traffic through “bad BGPs”. The majority of these cases are attributed to configuration mistakes.
However, researchers found that China Telecom has been deliberately hijacking BGP routes to send legitimate traffic through malicious servers.
They described the state-owned telco as “one of the most determined BGP hijackers in the international community.”
In order to validate their findings, the researchers built a route tracing system to monitor BGP announcements, allowing them to distinguish between normal, accidental patterns and deliberate ones.
They concluded that China Telecom was responsible for patterns of BGP behavior that “suggest malicious intent, precisely because of their unusual transit characteristics -namely the lengthened routes and the abnormal durations.”
“[China Telecom] has already relatively seamlessly hijacked the domestic US and cross-US traffic and redirected it to China over days, weeks, and months,” the researchers said.
“The prevalence of and demonstrated ease with which one can simply redirect and copy data by controlling key transit nodes buried in a nation’s infrastructure requires an urgent policy response,” they warned.
The routing snafu involving domestic US Internet traffic coincided with a larger misdirection that started in late 2015 and lasted for about two and a half years, Oracle’s Madory said in a blog post published Monday. The misdirection was the result of AS4134, the autonomous system belonging to China Telecom, incorrectly handling the routing announcements of AS703, Verizon’s Asia-Pacific AS. The mishandled routing announcements caused several international carriers—including Telia’s AS1299, Tata’s AS6453, GTT’s AS3257, and Vodafone’s AS1273—to send data destined for Verizon Asia-Pacific through China Telecom, rather than using the normal multinational telecoms.
Ahead of the third telco player’s selection Wednesday (November 7), Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero already voiced concerns about the possible threats to national security and data privacy in case China Telecom becomes the winner of the bidding.
AT&T’s Josh Goodell at MEF 18 conference in LA: “SD-WAN is the killer app — we’re deploying 28,000 end points, it has really exploded.” Really? We’re from Missouri= show me
Meanwhile, the MEF has definesd an SD-WAN service and its various attributes. With strong support from service provider and technology provider members, MEF currently is on track to ratify and publicly release its MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Service Attributes and Service Definition standard in 1Q 2019. SD-WAN service standardization will enable a wide range of ecosystem stakeholders to use the same terminology when buying, selling, assessing, deploying, and delivering SD-WAN services. The SD-WAN service definition is a foundational step for accelerating sales, market adoption, and certification of MEF 3.0 SD-WAN services orchestrated across a global ecosystem of automated networks.
SD-WAN Service Standardization
SD-WAN service standardization is being conducted within the context of the MEF 3.0 Global Services Framework. It is part of a transformational initiative to standardize a complete family of dynamic Carrier Ethernet (CE), IP, Optical Transport, SD-WAN, security, and other virtualized services that will be orchestrated over programmable networks using LSO (Lifecycle Service Orchestration) APIs.
MEF’s SD-WAN service definition specification describes requirements for an application-aware, over-the-top WAN connectivity service that uses policies to determine how application flows are forwarded over multiple underlay networks irrespective of the underlying technologies.
“MEF’s groundbreaking work in standardizing an SD-WAN service addresses one of the biggest obstacles impacting SD-WAN service market growth,” said Nan Chen, President, MEF. “In a recent joint MEF and Vertical Systems Group survey of service providers worldwide, nearly 80% of respondents identified the lack of an industry-standard service definition as a significant challenge for service providers to offer or migrate to SD-WAN services. MEF’s SD-WAN service standardization will undoubtedly accelerate sales of SD-WAN products and services like MEF accomplished with Carrier Ethernet service standardization.”
Just as the industry has benefited from MEF standardization of CE services – which now exceed an estimated $50 billion in annual revenues globally – there are numerous potential benefits associated with a common SD-WAN service definition. These include, among other things:
- Reducing market confusion about service components, core capabilities, and related concepts, thus saving valuable time given the scarce availability of skilled personnel.
- Enabling service providers and technology providers to focus on providing a core set of common capabilities and then building on that core resulting in differentiated offerings.
- Facilitating inclusion of SD-WAN services in standardized LSO architectures, thereby advancing efforts to orchestrate MEF 3.0 SD-WAN services across multiple providers.
- Paving the way for creation and implementation of SD-WAN services certification, which will give users confidence that a service meets a fundamental set of requirements.
MEF member companies are involved in multiple SD-WAN implementation-related initiatives that can be leveraged to provide feedback on standardization requirements and create software-oriented artifacts that can be used to accelerate efforts to orchestrate standardized SD-WAN services. These initiatives include the MEF 3.0 Multi-Vendor SD-WAN Implementation project, the MEF18 LSO Hackathon, and several SD-WAN Proof of Concept (PoC) demonstrations at MEF18.
The MEF18 LSO Hackathon is focused on developing and validating data models for SD-WAN services. This presents a unique opportunity for those involved in technical aspects of SD-WAN services and products to learn in a hands-on way about the latest SD-WAN service and LSO standardization work at MEF as well as the related API and YANG work at ONF and IETF.
Three MEF18 PoC demonstrations directly related to LSO-enabled orchestration of SD-WAN services include:
- Zero Touch Services with Secure SD-WAN
- Towards a Multi-Vendor Orchestrated SD-WAN – LSO-enabled Solution with Open Source Orchestrator and Container-based uCPEs
- Instantiation and Delivery of SD-WAN over a Virtualized and Orchestrated Wholesale Carrier Ethernet Access Service.
MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Service Certification
MEF currently plans to introduce a pilot version of certification for MEF 3.0 SD-WAN services in the first half of 2019. This certification will test a set of service attributes and their behaviors defined in the upcoming SD-WAN standard and described in detail in the MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Service Certification Blueprint.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
Here’s the url for Steve Saunder’s spot on the money article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/future-communications-steve-saunders/
The only add on I have to Steve’s exquisite post is that the lack of standards is pervasive throughout the WAN space:
- SD WANs are a single vendor solution – no UNI or NNI specified or being worked on by an accredited standards body.
- NFV: No standards for exposed interfaces, APIs (NFV orchestrator (NFVO) to/from virtual appliances), no backward compatibility between virtual appliances and physical appliances, no standard for network management or fault isolation/repair, etc.
- Every major Cloud Service Provider (CSP) has their own defacto standards/specs and APIs, e.g. Amazon, Google, MSFT, etc
- Every major CSP has their own connectivity solution(s) from customer premises network to their point of presence (PoP); and their own method for realizing a virtual private cloud (VPC)
- Every CSP and network service provider has their own definition and implementation of SDN, including one or more southbound API (s) to/from Control Plane to data plane. That southbound API was supposed to be ONLY OpenFlow according to the ONF. The Northbound API was never standardized and there are many options. Many SDNs use an overlay network and virtualization of network functions while others do not. Equipment and software built for one provider’s SDN won’t operate on another’s as the specs are different and usually proprietary.
- Far too many LPWANs for IoT: Sigfox (by company with same name), LoRa WAN, Weightless SIG (unidirectional Weightless-N, bidirectional Weightless-P and Weightless-W), NB-IoT, LTE Cat M1, many other proprietary versions like RPMA (from Ingenu).
- The message sets between “things”/IoT devices and the cloud controller have not been standardized. Neither is the functions of an “IoT Platform” which has become a wild west menagerie of incompatible platforms from hundreds of vendors.
- Every so called “5G” deployment planned before IMT 2020 has been completed (end of 2020) is proprietary. The only thing in common seems to be use of 3GPP release 15 “5G New Radio” which is not a standard. That implies mobile 5G will have severe roaming problems when moving from one 5G carrier to another.
And the list goes on and on and on……………………………………….
Without agreed upon standards, the upshot is that the big cloud players (Google, Amazon, FB, Microsoft, Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu, etc) will dominate communications in the future (I think they already dominate all of IT!!)
Also, the rise of open source hardware organizations (OCP, TIP, ONF, etc) along with Taiwan/China ODMs have profoundly changed the communications industry. With so many open source white boxes and bare metal switches available, there is little or no value add for vendor specific network equipment other than possibly higher performance (e.g. throughput).
India has the second largest number of Internet users in the world- second only to China. But only in the last two years has India moved to true broadband wireless service. Mukesh Ambani, head of Reliance Industries, one of India’s largest conglomerates, has shelled out $35 billion of the company’s money to blanket the South Asian nation with its first all-4G network. By offering free calls and data for pennies, the telecom latecomer has upended the industry, setting off a cheap internet tsunami that is opening the market of 1.3 billion people to global tech and retailing titans.
The unknown factor: Can Reliance reap profits itself after unleashing a cutthroat price war? Analysts say the company’s ultimate plan, after connecting the masses, is to use the platform to sell content, financial services and advertising. It could also recoup its massive investment in the years to come by charging for high-speed broadband to consumers’ homes and connections for various businesses, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Sidebar: Reliance Jio gaining ground on incumbents via price war
Business Standard says that according to revenue figures of the industry for the April-June quarter, Jio has become the second biggest wireless network operator by revenues, overtaking Vodafone.
In fact, both Vodafone and Idea reported a revenue decline of 7 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively in the reported quarter. Airtel though managed to increase its adjusted gross revenue (AGR) by 1 per cent, thanks to income from national long distance (NLD) services.
According to a report by JP Morgan, Reliance Jio keeps flourishing in a continually stressed industry, which is why the industry may continue to be in stress.
Meanwhile, zeebiz.com reports “Reliance Jio impact: 15,000 people lost jobs, just 3 companies left in 2 years.” Apart from declining financial health of incumbents, there have been massive job losses owing to mergers and sector consolidation. Experts estimate the number of job losses to be around 12,000-15,000 in the last two years, with a major shedding from Vodafone and Idea Cellular duo.
Reliance Jio has been gaining subscribers and revenue market share at a rapid pace. But for the incumbents, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular, there has been declining average revenue per user (Arpu) and margins with high debt levels. Together, the telecom industry has a cumulative debt of Rs 3.6 lakh crore.
Analysts from Jefferies say that the competitive intensity will remain high as Jio and Bharti focus on subscriber additions. “We expect increased competitive intensity in the postpaid and feature phone segments. The market share is expected to stabilise in the next 12 months. Post that, there will be a gradual Arpu recovery due to customer willingness to pay higher.”
“The next battleground is the 500 million non-LTE subscriber base, which would include 400 million 2G subscribers. Half of the 2G subscribers are low-value subscribers with monthly spend of Rs 50-80. Content and advertising will emerge as key pillars to increase average revenue per user and profitability for the sector in the medium term,” according to Deutsche Bank Research.
Mr. Ambani’s project has the potential to give India the largest—and most diverse—connected population in the world, with low-cost access to data helping to level the playing field between rich and poor.
It also could revolutionize retail. Mr. Ambani’s success or failure could affect Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp, which have poured resources into developing products for the Indian market, and Walmart Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., which have invested billions here on logistics for online shoppers. To profit, they all need people connected to the internet.
India has more internet users than the U.S., but a low percentage of the country is online. Slow download speeds are a drag on building subscribers.
Mr. Ambani wasn’t available to comment, according to a Reliance spokesman. The company “has unleashed huge data potential in the country,” the spokesman said. “Digital life will no longer be the privilege of the affluent few.”
There are 390 million internet users in India, according to Bain & Co., but the penetration rate is still only 28%, compared with 88% in the U.S. The country’s e-commerce market is expected to be worth $33 billion this year, three times what it was in 2015, but less than 3% of India’s overall retail market, according to research firm eMarketer.
Companies are after customers like 59-year-old potato farmer Govind Singh Panwar. His home in the Himalayan foothills is built of mud and stone, and his village has no paved roads or indoor plumbing. Still, broadband internet has arrived.
“I bought our first fridge” online, Mr. Panwar said. “It’s a rare thing in a village.” He got online last year with Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., Mr. Ambani’s telecom company, which built a tower nearby that beams his phone nearly unlimited 4G data for about $2.10 a month.
Jio, which means “to live” in Hindi, has signed up 215 million subscribers since it went live in 2016, making it India’s No. 4 mobile provider, after Bharti Airtel Ltd., with 345 million, Vodafone Group PLC and Idea Cellular Ltd.
Mr. Ambani’s foray started in 2010, when he bought a company that had just acquired a pan-India 4G license. That was a risky move at a time when fewer than one in 10 Indians were online. Airtel and Vodafone were still focused on rolling out 3G services, and few Indians owned 4G-capable smartphones.
Fourth generation, or 4G-LTE networks provide significantly faster speeds than 3G, enabling more content like streaming video and music. They also provide the steadier connections important for online shopping, which can be difficult on patchy networks. 4G networks are common in the U.S., Europe and East Asia.
Mr. Ambani, now 61 and worth more than $48 billion, had just finished building what some have dubbed the world’s most expensive home, a 27-story mansion on a hill with views of the Arabian Sea. It was packed with bling—helipad, home theater, gym, garden, pool—but the internet connection was bad.
When his daughter came home from Yale University during a break, she struggled to submit her course work online. “Dad, the internet in our house sucks,” she complained, according to a story Mr. Ambani later recounted at an event.
At the time, India’s telecom industry executives and analysts agreed there was need for more speed, but they doubted enough people would be willing to pay for it. Indians then were spending only about $2 a month on their cellphones, the vast majority of that on voice calls.
Subscribers in India typically use prepaid plans without contracts, making it easy to switch carriers by swapping in a new SIM card from a competitor. One adversary that has thrown in the towel: Reliance Communications Ltd., formerly part of the Reliance empire but taken separate by Mr. Ambani’s brother, Anil Ambani, after a family dispute. The company, under pricing pressure from Jio, closed its mobile business in late 2017.
The price war has cut industry wide revenue per user—now averaging $1.53 a month, compared with about $2.50 in 2016. Jio beats the average, at $1.89 a month, but the number has been falling since its launch.
The result has been a data binge. Jio transmitted more data in the first year of its operation than any carrier ever world-wide, according to research firm Strategy Analytics. India last year surpassed the U.S. in the number of apps downloaded from the Google Play store, according to mobile-app analytics firm App Annie. Monthly data traffic in India per user has jumped 570% in the two years since Jio launched, according to Morgan Stanley .
When Jio realized it was reaching the consumers who could afford the data but not the 4G-enabled smartphones, it built a new type of “smart” feature phone that worked on 4G and had some smartphone features. Consumers could own a JioPhone for a $23 security deposit—refundable if they return the phone. It launched in September 2017 and has overtaken Samsung Electronics Co. to capture 47% of the feature phone market, according to research firm Counterpoint.
Companies such as Amazon.com are depending on the new pool of users. Amazon has tweaked its model in India by introducing services like cash on delivery, in which customers can pay with cash when items arrive at their door, since few people have credit cards. The retailer has also deployed swarms of delivery men on motorbikes, so they can negotiate chaotic city traffic.
Google, which has been effectively shut out of China since 2010, has been rolling out new features to cater to users in India, testing products that might also work in other emerging markets, such as Indonesia. It launched a version of its YouTube app, called YouTube Go, designed to work on inexpensive smartphones. It created a mobile payment app for India, called Tez, that works without a credit or debit card. It is also working to make many of its services work with local languages.
At a July investors’ meeting, Mr. Ambani made his ambitions clear. “Even after serving the needs of our 215 plus million customers, the capacity utilization of the Jio network is less than 20%,” he said. “We are determined to connect everyone and everything, everywhere.”
Hong Kong network operator HKT and China IT powerhouse Huawei jointly inaugurated the Digital Transformation Practice Center (DTPC) yesterday in Hong Kong. The DTPC will share the experience and practices of HKT gained during its digital transformation journey, and help guide the digitalization process of other carriers in their development of digital transformation, HKT said.
The DTPC will provide on-site sharing of HKT’s experience and practices gained in its successful digital transformation journey.
At the DTPC, a project team will assess different transformational scenarios through the five stages of digital transformation: Envisioning, Ideating, Prototyping, Realizing and Scaling. The goal is to realize digital transformation in a more agile and low-cost manner. By connecting to Huawei Cloud Open Labs, visitors can also experience on-the-spot the transformed services.
The digital transformation practice facility aims to offer consultancy from half a day or a full day to chief executives, through to several weeks with specialist staff, said Derry Li, Huawei’s vice president of consulting and systems integration. “The center will support the construction of solutions. We will uncover user pain points,” Li said. The process will include prototyping of front-end and back-end solutions, he added.
By the end of this year, the facility will also advise on other technologies such as internet of things (IoT), the executive said. Li also said that Huawei and Hong Kong Telecom plan to extend the scope of the new facility to include 5G services in the first half of 2019.
HKT had previously worked with Huawei to carry out the end-to-end digital business transformation project, covering service and operation transformation as well as infrastructure cloudification for the realization of customer-centric “ROADS” (Real-time, On-demand, All-online, DIY, Social) experience.
During his keynote presentation at the opening of the event, Huawei’s board Chairman Liang Hua said that a full digitalization process can take at least 18 months to get through the toughest period of the implementation.
Separately, HKT, Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), and Huawei have jointly issued Indoor 5G Networks White Paper which explains the complexity of indoor 5G network deployment. It discusses 5G indoor service network requirements, the evolution of existing network, and challenges in target network deployment, and recommends appropriate construction strategies.
The white paper points out that more than 80% of service usage on 4G mobile networks occurs indoors. The industry predicts that a greater number of mobile services will take place indoors as 5G spurs service diversity and extends business boundaries. As a result, says the white paper, indoor mobile networks in the 5G era will become essential to operators’ competitiveness.
The white paper discusses key requirements and performance indicators for indoor 5G target networks based on the features of the three major types of 5G services (enhanced mobile broadband, ultra-reliable low-latency communication and massive machine-type communication). The specific requirements of augmented reality (AR), VR, high-definition (HD) video, telemedicine, and smart manufacturing are elaborated.
Lee Hicks, Vice President of network planning at Verizon said the carrier is focused on a single core MPLS network supporting wireless, residential and business services that will use NG-PON2 as an access method for all three. Mr. Hicks made those remarks at ADTRAN Connect 2018 in Huntsville, Alabama. Hicks said that an important goal is to reduce the cost per bit by 45% while also providing low latency to support services such as augmented and virtual reality and telemedicine, he said. Speaking about the company’s fiber investment, Hicks said: “This has become the base for what we do in the industry. We are big believers in taking fiber all the way.”
In comparison with other 10 Gbps PON options, Hicks said, “It’s not the easiest to go from GPON to NG-PON2, but it’s the best long-term step.” NG-PON2 initially will have four wavelengths, each operating at 10 Gbps. “In the future, we have a roadmap to be able to bond these wavelengths,” Hicks said. “We have a built-in ability to go beyond a 10-Gig to 20-Gig, 30-Gig, even 40-Gig down the road. Today with 1-Gig service becoming common place, it’s only a matter of time before 10-Gig and beyond become important. You need to be thinking about that. We are and we’re trying to pick a platform that could help us do that. Having multiple wavelengths available is important.”
Hicks said that tunable optics for NG-PON2 will allow operators to assign different subscriber types to different wavelengths. Using dynamic load balancing, a service provider could move a data hog to a separate wavelength via a provisioning command to the optical network tuners. He touted the enhanced reliability that multiple wavelengths and tunable optics will support. Verizon has demonstrated pulling a fiber off of a PON and having the optical line terminal automatically switch to a backup wavelength within a few seconds. “Having multiple wavelengths available helps when you have to take a PON card out of service,” he said.
NG-PON2 also will enable network operators to load balance traffic, Hicks noted. If one customer on a PON is a wavelength hog, other customers could be moved to a different wavelength. NG-PON2 equipment currently uses a separate broadband network gateway and gateway router but Verizon is working with Adtran to incorporate BNG functions into the optical line terminal.
“Broadband is no longer a want to service; it’s a have to service. We’re at 40%, 50% per customer growth in consumption every year. But what’s coming on top of that now is the demand for low latency. Whether it’s augmented reality, virtual reality, or telemedicine, all these things require very low latency. We’re looking for solutions that continue to help with that.
What can we do is simplify our network by driving the costs per bit down,” Hicks said. “We’re very focused on that. We have an internal goal to every year to reduce the cost per bit by 40%. That’s what I charge my team with figuring out how to do, that’s what I charge Adtran and all of our suppliers to do. Our goal is to continue to develop a roadmap on how to reduce the cost per bit so that we can give good value to our customers. That’s our vision. And so now how do we think about meeting that, especially on a fiber network? We believe that NG-PON2 is the right platform to do that.”
Verizon’s Lee Hicks talks about some of the telco’s networking goals at Adtran Connect. (Photo by FierceTelecom)
Other elements of the Verizon network roadmap:
- The company will consolidate real estate across its wireless, residential and business networks into what Hicks called “shared hub sites” for the “aggregation and service edge.” These could be central offices, points of presence or C-RAN huts, he said.
- Verizon currently has more than 40 platforms and 200,000 network elements, including some that are up to 30 years old, that will be decommissioned.
- The company’s platform “allows us to do circuit emulation” to support customers currently using DS-1 or Sonet services, which will be converted to Ethernet at the central office
- Services such as FiOS, virtual private networks and others will share an uplink
- The company will manage the network using a base network controller (BNC) that will use standard interfaces to an orchestration and abstraction network in place of traditional vendor-specific element management systems
On Network Automation, Telemetry and Control, Hicks said Verizon is using OpenDaylight for its Base Network Controller (BNC), which is the focal point for gathering streaming telemetry from network elements.
“The model there is we’re going to create standard interfaces to our orchestration and extract the network,” Hicks said. “Southbound from the BNC, we will use industry standards, things like NETCONF and YANG models for provisioning, and then we’ll use OpenFlow to do network control. We’re going to be using this to do telemetry.”
In the past, Hicks said every Verizon service had its own set of network probes to gather data, which was then put into separate data lakes with their own set of analysis tools.
“We’re not going to be buying probes anymore,” Hicks said. “We’re going to be using the intelligence that’s in the network elements themselves and using streaming telemetry to gather all that. We’re going to be bringing it to a single data lake and then doing analytic engines on top of that with closed-loop automation.
“Our vision is on this new network where I have a single data lake, without probes, that I can then do closed-loop automation,” Hicks concluded.