CenturyLink CTO on Network Virtualization; Major Investment in Edge Compute Services

Andrew Dugan, senior vice president  and chief technology officer, CenturyLink, Inc. presented his company’s views on network virtualization and related topics at the Cowen and Company 5th Annual Communications Infrastructure Summit in Boulder CO., on Aug. 13th.  You can listen to the audio webcast replay here.

Dugan said he doesn’t know what AT&T means when the mega carrier says it’s virtualizing 75% of its core network by the end of 2020.   “I’d like to figure out what AT&T means by 75% virtualization,” said Dugan. “I don’t get it. The concept of virtualizing the core router or an optical platform, that’s a lot of cost of your network to provide services. We’re not working on virtualizing that stuff.

Dugan said CenturyLink is focused on virtualizing systems that enable its customers to turn up and turn down services on demand, and it’s also focused on virtualization at the edge of its network. He said the company likes the benefits of putting a white box device on the customer premises and “letting a customer turn up a firewall or an SD-WAN appliance or a WAN accelerator whenever they want.”

Earlier this week, CenturyLink announced the rollout of its edge compute-focused strategy, beginning with a several hundred-million-dollar investment to build out and support edge compute services. This effort – which includes creating more than 100 initial edge compute locations across the U.S., and providing a range of hybrid cloud solutions and managed services – enables customers to advance their next-gen digital initiatives with technology that integrates high performance, low-latency networking with leading cloud service provider platforms in customized configurations.

“Customers are increasingly coming to us for help with applications where latency, bandwidth and geography are critical considerations,” said Paul Savill, senior vice president, product management, CenturyLink. “This investment creates the platform for CenturyLink to enable enterprises, hyperscalers, wireless carriers, and system integrators with the technology elements to drive years of innovation where workloads get placed closer to customers’ digital interactions.”

This expansion allows businesses and government agencies to leverage a highly diverse, global fiber network with edge facilities designed to serve their local locations within 5 milliseconds of latency. With this infrastructure, companies will be able to complete the linkage from office location to market edge compute aggregation to public cloud and data centers with redundant and dynamically consumable network.

“Digital transformation is gaining momentum as enterprises across all verticals look to technology to improve operational efficiency and enhance the customer experience,” said Melanie Posey, Research Vice President and General Manager at 451 Research. “As business processes become increasingly distributed, data-intensive, and transaction-based, the IT systems they depend on must be equally distributed to provide the necessary compute, storage and network resources to far-flung business value chains.”

Dugan said the edge compute platform plays into the company’s virtualization efforts, allowing customers the ability to turn up and turn down Ethernet services, increase capacity, change vLANs, and configure their services on-demand.

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“That, to me, is where NFV and SDN comes in. We haven’t put a number on the percent of the network. We’re more focused on that customer enablement,” he said.

“When you build out an NFV platform, you’ve got the cost of the white box, you have the cost of the management or virtualization software that runs within the white box, and you have the cost of the virtual functions themselves.  If you’re running one or two applications on premise, it’s not cheaper. The real value from NFV comes in the flexibility that it provides you to be able to put a box out there and be able to turn up and turn down services. It’s not a capex reduction…It’s a reduction in operating costs because you’re not having to roll trucks and put boxes out,” Dugan added.

CenturyLink says its “thousands of secure technical facilities combined with its network of 450,000-global route miles of fiber, expertise in high-performance cloud networking, and extensive cloud management expertise make this investment in the rapidly emerging edge compute market a natural evolution for the company.”

Key Facts (source: CenturyLink):

  • CenturyLink today connects to over 2,200 public and private data centers and over 150,000 on-net, fiber-fed enterprise buildings.
  • CenturyLink’s robust fiber network is one of the most deeply peered and well-connected in the world, with over 450,000 route-miles of coverage.
  • CenturyLink is expanding access to its services by expanding network colocation services in many key markets to enable customers and partners to run distributed IT workloads close to the edge of the network.


CenturyLink References:

CenturyLink CEO Jeff Storey: “Expanding our fiber footprint is major focus; Fiber beats wireless, whether it’s 5G or not”

IHS Markit: CenturyLink #1 in the 2019 North American SIP Trunking Scorecard

VSG’s U.S. Carrier Ethernet LEADERBOARD: CenturyLink #1, AT&T #2; U.S. CE port base grew >12%

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

CenturyLink/Level 3 Says Its Fiber Assets will attract SMBs


Samsung (with AT&T) Tests How 5G Can Improve Chip-Making

By Sara Castellanos of the Wall Street Journal

Samsung Electronics Co. is testing how 5G wireless networks can speed up connections at its chip-making factory in Austin, Texas, a pilot that aims to prove 5G is more than a buzzword. The company is experimenting with the new technology to show what ultra-fast speeds can do at its Austin chip factory

The company has teamed up with AT&T Inc. ’s communications division to develop a customized 5G network to experiment with how it could be used in chip manufacturing.

The fifth generation of cellular networking, 5G is designed to replace current 4G technology, also known as LTE. The ultrafast speeds and reduced lag that will come with 5G will buttress new applications such as augmented reality and self-driving cars. Peak download speeds using 5G are expected to be about 100 times as fast as with 4G.

The transformation that will come from widespread commercial 5G deployments in manufacturing, logistics, transportation and energy is still about a decade away, experts have said. That’s partly because it will take time to roll out the infrastructure to achieve full 5G coverage.

In the meantime, Samsung and other companies are testing 5G’s potential in limited pilots to show what the technology can do.

“We’re still in the experimentation phase, but we’re hopeful there’s value,” said Alok Shah, vice president of networks strategy, business development and marketing at Samsung Electronics America, the company’s U.S. unit.

Factories will be a big beneficiary of 5G connections, said Andre Fuetsch, chief technology officer for AT&T Communications, AT&T’s biggest division.

“We see 5G being a great solution for solving a lot of the Wi-Fi issues that typical factories have today,” he said. The technology, for example, could be used on manufacturing floors to power more reliable connections for computer-vision-scanning equipment that checks product quality.

AT&T has also rolled out consumer 5G networks in about 20 U.S. cities.

Samsung Electronics America and AT&T have invested millions of dollars in 5G innovation at Samsung’s chip-manufacturing facility in Austin. Thousands of employees work at the chip factory, which is the size of about 10 football fields, Mr. Shah said.

Chip-making uses a lot of water and toxic chemicals; 5G could help chip factories cut waste and alert workers to safety hazards.

For example, 5G would allow more sensors to be installed to detect air quality, Mr. Shah said. Streaming real-time data from the sensors over 5G networks would mean that a control center can immediately detect serious air-quality hazards and move people out of harm’s way. Sensors in factories today can’t rely on existing wireless networks to pass along warnings to a control center, Mr. Shah said.

“Being able to put thousands of sensors within a relatively small space is hard for other [networking] technologies to support,” Mr. Shah said. Certain networks can only support a finite number of devices. Fifth-generation wireless networks could support 1 million devices per square kilometer, up from about 100,000 devices per square kilometer with 4G LTE, he said.

Sensors on pumps and valves could also stream data about water usage over 5G networks so the facility can improve the efficiency of its water usage in real time and reduce waste.

Using 5G connections, workers could also learn how to repair equipment on the factory floor through augmented and virtual-reality headsets without any buffering or lags.

Other companies including New York Times Co. and German engineering firm Robert Bosch GmbH are testing 5G in pilots. The market for 5G, including related network infrastructure, is forecast to grow to $26 billion in 2022 from $528 million in 2018, according to research firm International Data Corp.

The tests are often “showcase demonstration pieces,” useful for proving that 5G could generate revenue through new services or make processes more efficient, said Jason Leigh, research manager for mobility and 5G at IDC.

“The sooner you can get something tangible, it makes it easier to have that discussion at a C-suite and board level about what 5G really is, and it’s not just this fad,” Mr. Leigh said.

Write to Sara Castellanos at sara.castellanos@wsj.com



Last September, AT&T and Samsung created the US’s first manufacturing-focused 5G “Innovation Zone” in Austin, TX.  The zone, designed to test 5th generation wireless broadband technology, will be on Samsung Austin Semiconductor’s 160-acre campus in north Austin. The site will feature AT&T’s 5G wireless technology along with Samsung’s 5G network equipment, according to an announcement Wednesday from the two companies.

Technology experts say 5G — which is essentially ultra high-speed wireless connections — will not only power future waves of mobile devices, but also will evolve technology in other industries like automotive and health care. Companies expect 5G to be up to 100 times faster than the current 4G networks.

“This collaboration with Samsung Electronics America and AT&T will help us test how a 5G network can improve mobility, performance and efficiencies within our plant,” Sang-Pil Sim, president of Samsung Austin Semiconductor, said in a statement.

South Korea-based Samsung has operated in Austin since 1997. About 3,000 employees work in the 2.45 million-square-foot Austin chip making plant. Samsung has invested $17 billion in its Austin campus through the years.



Kagan: Broadband Wireline Internet growth slowing with cable leading telcos; U.S. vs Europe cord cutters compared

Broadband service providers continued to gain customers ahead of widespread competition from pre-standard 5G wireless offerings, but growth is slowing as nearly four out of five homes in the U.S. now subscribe to a wireline internet connection, according to a new report released today.

Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence, estimates cable and telecom providers combined added 339,000 residential subscribers in the second quarter. The momentum was largely driven by the cable industry. Cable operators saw the rate of growth shrink on a sequential and annual basis, but they did not however lack market share gains, adding nearly half a million new residential customers versus a net loss for the telecoms of 155,000 customers.

Ian Olgeirson, Research Director at Kagan commented: “We estimate wireline broadband penetration increased slightly to 78.5% of occupied households. Cable’s residential gains did not match the levels from the previous or year-ago quarters, but net adds in the trailing 12 months are still higher at 2.8 million when compared to the same period in 2018. Telco broadband slumped in the second quarter, returning to a pattern of six-figure losses after holding steady in the first quarter. Growth in telco fiber-to-the-home connections was not sufficient to overcome losses to legacy copper and fiber-to-the-node DSL connections.”

Separately, Kagan says that Americans are not the only ones cutting the cord. The vibrant and free-to-air broadcasting options available in most of the EU countries we surveyed makes paying for TV a hard sell, subscription video on demand or otherwise.

For instance, when Kagan asked cord cutters and “cord nevers” why they cut the cord or never added a video service, 35% of German cord cutters/nevers answered that “rabbit ears” fulfill their video entertainment needs. All respondents from EU countries surveyed scored above 15% on this metric. But just 10% of U.S. survey-takers felt the same way.

Kagan thinks the longer history with pay TV in the U.S., one that was forecast by Paul Kagan in the late 1960s, has left Americans with more paid TV options than Europeans, leading to fewer viewers stateside who mostly use over the air, or OTA.

But the longer pay TV history in the U.S. does not imply Americans like paying for the service.

Nearly half of American cord cutters/nevers said price was the main reason they cut the cord or never connected, the highest rate among all seven countries we reviewed. Americans pay close to $100 per month on average for traditional multichannel video services, with EU countries coming in lower. Sweden’s average monthly fee for video is under $10 and survey-takers there were consequently less concerned with pricing. A significant factor in lower pay TV access prices in Europe is that sports and premium channels are only included in top TV tiers, with basic packages boosted by a large number of OTA (over the air) channels.

U.S. survey-takers were also the only ones to say online video services were more important than free OTA in terms of why they cut the cord or never added a cord. For instance, while 10% of Americans said rabbit ears were enough reason to cut the cord, 14% said the same about online video services, including Netflix. Again, this could be a case of the U.S. being first to market with online video services and remaining relatively ahead of the pack.

As traditional media companies look towards a digital future it’s important to remember that what matters to US consumers might matter less overseas.

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GSA Update and Analysis: 5G Devices Ecosystem – August 2019

  • The GSA Research team has identified 100 announced 5G devices in total, excluding regional variants and prototypes not expected to be commercialised.In the first half of 2019, the number of announced 5G devices grew rapidly, starting with a few announcements and then gathering pace as operators in various parts of the world launched their first commercial 5G services. We can expect the device ecosystem to continue to grow quickly and GSA will be tracking and reporting regularly on 5G device launch announcements. Its GAMBoD database will contain key details about device form factors, features and support for spectrum bands. Summary statistics are released in this regular publication. By the first week of August, GSA had identified:
    • Thirteen announced form factors (phones, hotspots, indoor CPE, outdoor CPE, laptops, modules, snap-on dongles/adapters, enterprise routers, IoT routers, drones, a switch, a USB terminal and robot).
    • Forty-one vendors that had announced available or forthcoming 5G devices, including sub-brands separately (plus four in partnership with Sunsea).
    • One hundred announced devices, up from 90 at the end of June (excluding regional variants, re-badged devices, phones that can be upgraded using a separate adapter, and prototypes not expected to be commercialised):
    • 26 phones (plus regional variants); at least nine of which are now commercially available
    • eight hotspots (plus regional variants); at least three of which are now commercially available
    • 26 CPE devices (indoor and outdoor, including two Verizon-spec compliant devices) at least eight of which are now believed to be commercially available
    • 28 modules
    • two snap-on dongles/adapters
    • two routers,
    • two IoT routers
    • two drones
    • one laptop
    • one switch
    • one USB terminal
    • one robot

Here are the commercially available 5G devices as listed in the GSA’s latest report August 2019:

  • HTC 5G Hub (hotspot)
  • Huawei 5G CPE 2.0 (indoor and outdoor customer premises equipment, or CPE)
  • Huawei 5G CPE Win (outdoor and window CPE)
  • Huawei 5G CPE Pro (indoor CPE)
  • Huawei Mate X (phone)
  • Huawei Mate 20x 5G (phone)
  • Inseego R1000 Home Router/MiFi IQ 5G (fixed wireless indoor CPE)
  • Inseego MiFi M1000 5G Mobile Hotspot (hotspot)
  • LG V50 ThinQ (phone)
  • Motorola 5G Moto Mod Snap-on (dongle)
  • Netgear Nighthawk M5 Fusion MR5000 (aka Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot) (hotspot)
  • Nokia Fastmile 5G Gateway CPE (indoor/ outdoor CPE)
  • OnePlus OnePlus 7Pro 5G (phone)
  • Oppo Reno 5G (phone)
  • Percepto Drone-in-abox (drone)
  • Samsung SFG-D0100 (indoor CPE)
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 5G (phone)
  • SIMCom Wireless SIM8200- EA-M2 (module)
  • SIMCom Wireless SIM8200G (module)
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G (phone)
  • ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G (phone)
  • ZTE 5G Indoor CPE MC801 (indoor CPE)


What versions of 5G have been deployed/announced? 
After downloading and reading the GSA report, I noticed a huge omission: the version of 5G is not disclosed for any of the “pre-IMT 2020 standard 5G” deployments.  Most are likely to be based on 3GPP release 15 “5G NR” for the data plane NSA (LTE signaling and EPC).  However, many of the 5G fixed wireless deployments (like Verizon’s and C-Spire) are proprietary.

5G silicon? 

Also of note is that within the 5G devices, there are only four 5G silicon vendors chipsets – Qualcomm is by far the largest selling 5G SoC’s/IP, then Mediatek selling on the merchant market, whereas Huawei and Samsung design their own silicon for their 5G terminals/handsets and base stations.

Note while there is not yet any “Intel inside” 5G, Intel has sold its 5G smartphone modem silicon business to Apple recently for $1B.

If 5G were truly such a hot market, why aren’t there other semiconductor vendors pursuing it? 

Posted in 5G Tagged

IHS Markit: CenturyLink #1 in the 2019 North American SIP Trunking Scorecard

By Diane Myers, senior research director, IHS Markit


  • CenturyLink leads the market for session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking with the largest installed base of all North American providers.
  • Twilio has been a disruptor in the SIP trunking market and placed second in the scorecard due to solid market momentum.
  • Verizon and AT&T were #3 and #4, respectively.


Editor’s Note:

SIP (Session Initiated Protocol) trunking  is a method of sending voice and other unified communications services over the internet.  It works with an IP-enabled PBX (private branch exchange). SIP trunking replaces traditional telephone lines or PRIs (Primary Rate Interface).connects both IP and analog devices via the Internet, eliminating the need to maintain separate voice circuits or replace legacy equipment.

Before SIP became a popular and reliable method of transmitting voice signals, telephone calls were carried over the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). The PSTN is a circuit switched network, which requires a physical connection between two points to complete a call.

SIP trunks are virtual phone lines that enable users to make and receive phone calls over the internet to anyone in the world with a phone number. SIP trunks utilize a packet switch network, in which voice calls are broken down into digital packets and sent across a network to the final destination.

Each SIP trunk supports SIP channels. A SIP channel is equivalent to one incoming or outgoing call. A SIP trunk can hold an unlimited number of channels, so users only need one SIP trunk no matter how many concurrent calls they expect. The number of channels required depends on how many calls the business will make at any one time.






IHS Markit analysis:

In its 2019 SIP Trunking North America Scorecard, IHS Markit analyzed and ranked the top SIP trunking providers in North America. For the fourth year in a row, CenturyLink leads the SIP trunking market with solid growth and the largest installed base of trunks. CenturyLink has done extensive work over the past two years bringing together its assets with those of Level 3, a company it acquired in 2017, to build a market-leading service portfolio and customer base.

In this year’s scorecard, Twilio made another jump to the second-ranked position because of its strong financial score and the continued growth of its installed base. Twilio has been a market disruptor with its Elastic SIP Trunking service, which has grown to attain a sizable installed base. The strong growth of Twilio’s Elastic SIP Trunking service reflects the widespread appeal of flexible consumption-based pricing.

Just a few years ago, there was little differentiation in the SIP trunking market. Fast forward to today, and there is a stark difference between traditional trunking services and the new on-demand trunks. Traditional trunking remains grounded in the old world of contracting for voice networking. In contrast, with on-demand trunks, customers simply pay for what they use and never need to worry about capacity planning.

SIP Trunking North America Scorecard:

In the 11th annual SIP Trunking North America Scorecard, IHS Markit analyzes the top-10 North American SIP trunking service providers: CenturyLink, Twilio, Verizon, AT&T, IntelePeer, Fusion, Rogers, Voyant, Windstream and Sprint. The criteria used in this analysis include market share, financial strength, market share momentum, service development and support options.

Huawei to help create China’s first open source software foundation; unveils Honor Vision smart screen with Harmony OS

Huawei Technologies Co. said today that it plans to partner with other companies to set up China’s first open-source software foundation, which is expected to begin to operate in a month or two to expand the nation’s software community.

Wang Chenglu, president of the software department at Huawei’s consumer business group, said software development relies on open-source codes and communities. “If China does not have its own open-source community to maintain, manage and host these open-source codes, the domestic software industry will be vulnerable in the face of uncontrollable factors,” Wang said. The first open-source foundation in China will be nonprofit and open to all companies and software developers. “The plan is going forward very fast. It may officially operate in one or two months,” Wang said. Wang added it is widely agreed that open-source communities are created to be fair and equitable for all, but now have become a means of making a power play between countries.

The first open-source foundation in China will be nonprofit and open to all companies and software developers. [Photo/IC]


Last month, Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub, which is owned by Microsoft, said on Twitter that GitHub is subject to US trade law just like any company that does business in the US. GitHub has enforced restrictions to prevent users in sanctioned countries from accessing private repositories and the GitHub Marketplace and from maintaining private, paid organization accounts, technology news website TechCrunch reported.

Maral Khosroshahi, who identified herself as a deep-learning scientist at Microsoft and founder and chairwoman of Iranian Women in Computing, said in a post on Twitter on July 27th that GitHub suspended all accounts of Iranian developers without any prior notice. “This is a shame, … especially for those who keep saying that sanctions are not supposed to affect ordinary people,” Khosroshahi said in the post, adding that those views are her own.

Xiang Ligang, director-general of the telecom industry association Information Consumption Alliance, said the GitHub incident sent a warning to Chinese professionals that heavy reliance on U.S.-led open source communities may carry risks.

The open source plan also came after Huawei unveiled its in-house operating system Harmony OS on Friday, with the idea of using it in smart TVs, automobiles, wearables and other hardware over the next three years. Lyu Tingjie, a telecom professor at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, said Huawei decided to build Harmony into an open-source system because it knows that support from a wide range of partners is needed to build a robust ecosystem. “The foundation plan, if well-executed, will help accelerate the development of Huawei and China’s overall software industry,” Lyu said.

For more information contact:


China Daily Multimedia Co. Ltd.


George Zhao, president of Huawei’s sub-brand Honor, unveils Honor Vision series during the Huawei Developer Conference held in Dongguan, South China’s Guangdong province on Aug 10, 2019. Honor Vision is the world’s first smart screen equipped with HarmonyOS, or Hongmeng in Chinese, Huawei’s open-source operating system. [Photo/Xinhua]

“Huawei will continue to lead a broader effort to build China’s software developer ecosystem and complete industry chain for the electronic information industry, rather than just launch its OS,” Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Beijing-based Information Consumption Alliance, told the Global Times.

The HarmonyOS is an open-source system, but without the support of most application developers, it can’t grow at a rapid pace and neither can the industry, Xiang said.  The HarmonyOS was initially seen as an alternative plan to deal with the risks of losing access to Google’s Android software and overseas market share after the US attack. Huawei is confident in keeping its overseas market share and displayed an ambition to make the HarmonyOS successful.

Richard Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business, said that the HarmonyOS can make Huawei’s devices functional again overnight, if the Android OS on the devices fails.  Huawei has obviously entered a whole new stage of fully developing its OS, developer ecosystem and more terminals equipped with the OS. It will eventually build its Internet of Things based on its leading communication systems, rather than just focusing on mobile phone products, a veteran industry analyst told the Global Times on condition of anonymity.






China Mobile Explores 5G Tie-Up With National Cable TV Operator

by Liu Yanfei and Yang Ge of Caixin Global

China Mobile Ltd., the world’s biggest wireless carrier by subscribers, said it is talking with a recently formed national cable TV operator about cooperation in upcoming 5G networks and services, as it looks for new income sources to jumpstart its stagnating revenue.

China Mobile controls about 60% of its massive home market, making it flush with cash for aggressive spending on a state-of-the-art 5G network that has become a recent top priority for Beijing. By comparison, China Broadcasting Network Corp. was formed only five years ago by cobbling together many of the nation’s regional cable TV operators, and is relatively cash poor.

China Mobile and its two peers, China Telecom Corp. Ltd. and China Unicom Telecommunication Corp. Ltd., all received 5G licenses when the regulator awarded them in June, a move that was widely expected. But many industry watchers were surprised when China Broadcasting also received a 5G license because the company is relatively cash-poor and also has little or no experience in wireless services.

China Mobile had previously made known its desire to work with China Broadcasting, even though Unicom and China Telecom opposed such a move. China Mobile Chairman Yang Jie told Caixin on Thursday that talks between the two sides have taken place on building and sharing 5G networks, but he added there is nothing to reveal just yet.

“Building and sharing 5G networks is something the nation also supports, and businesses are also quite willing,” he told Caixin on the sidelines of an event to discuss the company’s latest financial results, which were also released on Thursday.

China Mobile Chairman Yang Jie says Thursday in Hong Kong that his company and China Broadcasting have discussed building and sharing 5G networks. Photo: VCG

China Mobile Chairman Yang Jie says Thursday in Hong Kong that his company and China Broadcasting have discussed building and sharing 5G networks. Photo: VCG


A collaboration with China Broadcasting would give China Mobile access to one of the country’s biggest providers of programming via the former’s vast cable network. Such a tie-up could help to reinvigorate China Mobile’s revenues, which have stagnated in recent years as demand for its core wireless voice and data services starts to mature.

On Thursday, China Mobile reported interim results that showed the company’s revenue dipped by 0.9% to 204.4 billion yuan ($29 billion) in this year’s second quarter, while its profit plunged 18.8% to 32.4 billion yuan, according to calculations by Caixin.

China Broadcasting was formed in 2014 by combining many of the country’s regional cable-TV operators. It was originally set up to run cable TV networks, but was granted a license to operate internet and telecom services in 2016.

Before issuing 5G licenses in June, China’s telecom regulator called a meeting with each of the three big carriers’ top officials in charge of network construction, a source close to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) previously told Caixin. China Mobile raised its hopes of working together with China Broadcasting on that occasion, even though Unicom and China Telecom opposed.

As the nation’s dominant carrier, China Mobile is spending the most aggressively on 5G. Figures from the company indicate it now plans to spend about 24 billion yuan on the network this year. By comparison, Unicom has said it plans to spend 6 billion yuan to 8 billion yuan on 5G this year, while China Telecom has said it plans to spend about 9 billion yuan.

Contact reporter Yang Ge (geyang@caixin.com; twitter: @youngchinabiz)

Original article athttps://www.caixinglobal.com/2019-08-09/china-mobile-talks-5g-tie-up-with-national-cable-tv-operator-101449253.html

Brazil launches first phase of 100G fiber project, expands 4G and edge cloud networks

Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications, in partnership with the National Education and Research Network (RNP), has launched the first phase of the Ciencia Conectada program, which will expand the broadband infrastructure using optical fiber in the North and Northeast regions. The academic internet network is expanding its speed from 10 Gbps to 100 Gbps, benefiting federal universities, federal institutes and research units, in addition to fostering economy and local development.

The first phase of the program will reach 77 locations, six states, 16 cities, and 64 federal, state and private institutions this year. By 2021, the 16 metropolitan networks that will allow the connection of 1,317 schools to the internet will be completed.



4G networks reached 144 new cities in Brazil in the first half of 2019, taking the total to 4,573, where 96 percent of the population live, according to data published by Telebrasil. In the period January-May, 12.3 million new 4G Sim cards were activated, for a total of 142 million 4G users.

Over the 12 months to June, 24 million new 4G Sim cards were activated (20%). In the same period, 146 new cities were connected to 3G networks, taking the total to 5,433 cities, where 99.7 percent of the Brazilian population lives.

The number of mobile internet users reached 207.6 million, according to the industry group. If fixed connections are included, there were a total of 239.3 million internet users at the end of May. Of these, 31.7 million were fixed broadband subscribers, a segment that grew 4.6 percent in 12 months, with 1.8 million new accesses.



TIM Brazil is expanding its edge cloud network using Nokia AirFrame servers that feature 2nd-gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors to virtualise its data centres by 2021.

The news will make TIM the first operator in Latin America to adopt the AirFrame technology for its data centre servers, improving server capacity and delivering better quality, internet access and video consumption for its users in Brazil.

“Virtualisation is important to improve user experience in our network, which will count with more speed and data usage stability,” said Leonardo Capdeville, CTIO, TIM. “With this core virtualisation, TIM is leading with a 5G pilot project over the network. This process also allows us to strengthen our customers’ data protection.”

The rollout will comprise of 1000 state-of-the-art AirFrame servers that will virtualise network functions to guarantee better customer experience. As well as creating edge data centres the agreement with Nokia also moves TIM Brazil a step closer to 5G, which requires a cloud core for network activities.

“Nokia’s unique solution, designed to support precisely this evolution to 5G, will give TIM Brazil a crucial ongoing competitive advantage as they evolve their core networks into cloud,” added Leandro Monteiro, Nokia sales director in Brazil. “Nokia is proud to partner with TIM as it invests in cloud native technologies to maintain its position as one of Latin America’s most efficient networks.”


CenturyLink CEO Jeff Storey: “Expanding our fiber footprint is major focus; Fiber beats wireless, whether it’s 5G or not”

CenturyLink wants to become the premier U.S. fiber-based provider for business customers, according to Jeff Storey, CenturyLink’s president, CEO, and former Level 3 CEO.  Storey pledged to continue to aggressively expand its fiber footprint because fiber, he said, will ultimately beat out all other connectivity options in terms of performance, especially for next-generation use cases that are happening at the edge of the network.  Two such edge computing customer examples were given (see below).

“Expanding our fiber is a major area of focus for us … Fiber beats twisted pair copper, hybrid fiber coax, and it beats wireless, whether it’s 5G or not, fiber wins,” Storey told investors during the telecom’s Q2 2019 earnings call on Wednesday evening, August 7th.  Fiber is one way that CenturyLink plans to boost its Enterprise and Small and Medium Business revenues, executives said.  From the Century Link earnings call transcript, Storey said:

As I mentioned last quarter, we added 4,500 new fiber-fed buildings to our on-net footprint in the first quarter of 2019. We continued that focus in the second quarter with the addition of approximately 5,000 new fiber-fed buildings. For contrast, Level 3 used to add something closer to 500 buildings per quarter, so I want to emphasize expanding our fiber footprint is a major area of focus for us.

We know that when we have a building on-net, our fiber based services provide a better, more reliable, and higher margin solution than competing infrastructure. [indiscernible] wireless whether that’s 5G or not, fiber wins. It’s highly flexible and increasing speeds, it is secure and really is the basis for all the other competing technologies. We just do one thing differently. We take fiber all the way to the customer, and customers always want fiber when they can get it. You can expect us to continue investing to expand the reach of our access fiber network.

Beyond just being a superior technology, though, fiber is well suited to meet the demands of emerging opportunities driven by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data applications. Fiber-based solutions are better able to satisfy what we see as four key market trends. The need for highly scalable capacity, now ranging into multi gigabits per second; the need for connecting and increasing number of widely distributed locations; the need for the network itself to protect the privacy and security of our customers; and finally, the need to move bandwidth intensive computing resources closer and closer to the edge to reduce latency and unnecessary backhaul of traffic.

Expanding our on-net building footprint certainly helps us meet these needs. But we’ve implemented a number of other initiatives to ensure CenturyLink maintains our position as the premier fiber based provider for enterprise customers.

Our North American subsea fiber routes are a unique asset, and as I said earlier, we believe it represents the world’s most scalable and efficient fiber network. However, we are further augmenting our capabilities. We also own an extensive and unparalleled conduit system that we leverage to bring the latest generation fiber capabilities to market with extraordinary speed and economic efficiency. Each of the long haul networks we’ve acquired Level 3, Qwest, WilTel, Broadwing all had multi conduit builds.

Within the Level 3 network alone, we built 12 conduits to ensure we had sufficient space to grow and evolve this capacity in fiber technology evolved. Most of those conduits are still available for further network augmentation. But we’ve also interconnected all of those conduit systems to cherry-pick the shortest and lowest latency pass across the country. As illustrated on slide five, we recently announced the deployment of Corning’s latest generation of ultra-low loss fiber to build the world’s best, most scalable optical infrastructure. This new technology enables higher capacity and more efficient optical design than earlier fiber technologies.

Coupled with the selecting the shortest physical path between any two endpoints, we also improved latency significantly, which is a key factor for hyper scalars, bandwidth intensive enterprises, and dark fiber customers. We’ve completed 3.5 million miles of our current plan to build a total of 4.7 million fiber miles with ultra-low loss fiber roughly 75%. We continue to see demand for additional routes, and we’ll consider those to meet future customer needs.

We recognized that access and long haul transport only part of the solution. There’s increasing demand for computing capabilities at the edge of the network, and we believe we’re uniquely positioned to capitalize on this market opportunity. In addition to our far-reaching fiber network, we operate a large number of edge locations that are well suited to enable edge computing. In the coming weeks. We expect to announce the details of our investments in our widely distributed and extremely well connected edge computing infrastructure.

Storey gave two examples of Edge Computing using Century Link’s scaleable fiber network:

Let me give you a specific example from a customer of what fiber-based edge computing capabilities can mean for them. Slide 6 shows an actual customer with close to 2,000 nationwide locations. We are working with this customer to evaluate the effectiveness of our edge computing solutions to more efficiently run applications and process huge amounts of data very close to the origin of that data. On this slide, you can see that our existing infrastructure is positioned within five milliseconds transport time for 95% of their sites. This means that the customers applications and data can be processed more efficiently from a 100 or so of our edge locations, rather than processed on premise at 2,000 separate sites, even worse with the customer or backhaul to a central location.

In addition, our dynamic networking capabilities can provide real-time network provisioning from the customer premise to our edge, and then onto major cloud service providers. This example is for a specific customer, but the results are indicative of what we see from other customers we are currently working with.

This application can be an important solution for retail, banking, and really anyone that has a number of dispersed service locations that need to process large amounts of data in real time. The combination of our fiber network with edge computing infrastructure and managed services support is a very powerful and differentiated service offering. We are not suggesting that edge computing will eliminate the need for today’s hybrid computing or hybrid networking. To the contrary, our customers will continue to build and operate their own data centers, continue to move compute resources to public data centers and specific applications to cloud service providers.

Our customers want to dynamically manage their network and put different types of workloads in different environments. Through our wide array of hybrid networking solutions. CenturyLink provides the flexibility to do so easily. CenturyLink enables this flexibility with services like dynamic connections, which allows our customers to make instantaneous changes to their network, capacity, and configuration, and our cloud application manager, which allows customers to manage their applications across hybrid cloud environments through a single seamless interface.

Our network was purpose built to enable us to expand at the lowest cost in the industry. That’s a big advantage. It allows us to go to market quickly and invest in these types of growth initiatives within the bounds of our ongoing capital plans. The sufficiency is demonstrated in our ability to invest in all of these initiatives as well as other growth opportunities within the scope of the capex outlook we provided for the full-year 2019.

I’ll give you another specific customer example of how investments in flexible scalable fiber-based connectivity are helping us win in the market. We recently won a contract provide secured cloud connectivity to the US Census Bureau for the upcoming 2020 census. We will formally announce this contract later this week. To support the Census Bureau’s objectives, to provide the best mix of timeliness, relevancy, quality, and cost for the data they collect and the services they provide, CenturyLink will help to collect the census digitally by providing the bureau with managed trusted internet protocol services or MTIPS at speeds of 40 gigabits and higher.

MTIPS, a managed security service that provides secure cloud-based connectivity, will support the online system that will be available to all households completing the 2020 survey. The solution also allows the Census Bureau to access the responses via secured-cloud applications for the first time. CenturyLink was selected by the Bureau due to our ability to meet their requirements for scalable connectivity and will play an integral role in helping the US Census go digital in the most secure, reliable, and cost effective way as it takes an important mission of completing the 2020 census.

The census is obviously a unique example, but that’s the point of hybrid networking solutions from CenturyLink. Our customers can enable the capabilities to address their particular need. This solution highlights our ability to provide scalable, flexible network solutions that we believe are defining the next generation of enterprise networking.

Enterprise networking, a segment that includes CenturyLink’s high-bandwidth data services, managed services and SD-WAN services, declined 1.2% and was at $1.50 billion during the carrier’s fiscal second quarter compared to $1.52 billion in 2018’s Q2. However, Storey said that the company expects enterprise revenues to rise during the second-half of the year.

Small and medium business sales fell 11 percent during the quarter to $736 million compared to $819 million in Q2 2018 despite CenturyLink trying to focus strategic IT services geared toward the small and medium business market. Neel Dev, CenturyLink’s executive vice president and CTO, said that SMB revenue declines are largely driven by legacy products, but that the carrier “feels confident” it can return to profitability by selling to more businesses on its on-net fiber footprint.

Lisa Miller, CenturyLink’s president of wholesale and indirect channels and alliances, is “committed” to selling to small and midsized businesses who were outside of the legacy CenturyLink footprint.

“Level 3 didn’t focus there because they weren’t the type of customer we focused on, CenturyLink never focused there because they didn’t have the network to sell to those types of customers,” Storey explained. “It’s now a great opportunity for us and we need to focus and drive toward new opportunities with these customers.”

Consumer revenues continued its downward trajectory, falling by 8.4 percent to $1.42 billion during the quarter compared to Q2 2018’s result of $1.54 billion. CenturyLink today generates three-quarters of its revenue from business customers. During the provider’s Q1 2019 earnings call, Storey revealed that it was considering shopping around its consumer business. The executive said that CenturyLink’s internal teams are making “good progress” with the review, but that it will be a lengthy and complex process. In the meantime, Storey said the company won’t modify consumer investments and will continue to transform the Consumer business unit.


Financial Results:

For the quarter which ended on June 30, Monroe, La.-based CenturyLink reported net income of $371 million in Q2 2019, which increased 21 percent compared to last year’s result of $292 million. The company reported total revenue of $5.58 billion and diluted earnings per share of 35 cents, a decline of 5.4 percent compared to $5.90 billion and 27 cents per share in the year-ago quarter. CenturyLink’s revenue came in just slightly lower than Wall Street analysts’ estimate of $5.59 billion.

In the first half of 2019, CenturyLink grew adjusted EBITDA by 80 million compared to the first half of 2018, while revenue declined more than 600 million over the same period. This was driven in part by our focus on adding profitable revenue in de-emphasizing unprofitable lines of businesses, managing legacy product declines, along with synergies and our cost transformation initiatives.

Total revenue in the first quarter declined 5.5% to 5.58 billion. Quarter-over-quarter, total revenue declined 1.2% compared to the 2.3% sequential decline we saw last quarter.  In the enterprise segment, revenue declined 1.2% both year over year and sequentially. This compares to a decline of 1.6% year over year and 2.2% sequentially in the first quarter 2019.  SMB revenue decreased 10% year over year compared to a decline of 3.7% in the first quarter 2019.

Neel Dev: “The revenue declines on the SMB business are largely driven by legacy voice. We feel good about our ability to sell into our on-net building footprint with a large addressable market opportunity. Wholesale revenue decreased 8.8% year over year. As we referenced last year, in the second quarter 2018, wholesale revenue included a favorable dispute settlement with a large carrier. Sequentially, we saw a decline of 1.8% compared to a 3.4% decline last quarter.”

Broadband revenue for the second quarter 2019 grew 1.8% year over year which compares to growth of 1.4% last quarter, driven by our efforts to increase penetration in our competitive assets and investing in fiber.

Voice revenue on a year over year basis declined 13% this quarter compared to 12% last quarter. The decline in other revenue continues to be driven by our decision to de-emphasize our Prism video product. Regulatory revenue is down year over year due to the adoption of new lease accounting standard.

In summary, we remain focused on execution specifically on improving revenue trajectory for the second half of 2019, maximizing profitability and remain discipline on our cost transformation and deleveraging initiatives.





AT&T CFO on network virtualization, FirstNet, 5G in the core network through a software upgrade, and the enterprise 5G opportunity

AT&T Chief Financial Officer John Stephens described to analysts at an Oppenheimer Tech Conference how the company is on track to virtualize its network and will continue to be the “connectors to the cloud.”  The strategic relationship between FirstNet and 5G was highlighted along with a forecast that 5G will bring “pragmatic” and innovative applications to IoT connections. The AT&T CFO noted twoenterprise 5G projects already underway. Stephens cited programs in Austin, Texas, and Chicago, Illinois as well as AT&T’s FirstNet network contract.

Here are a few selected excerpts of Mr. Stephens’ Oppenheimer conference Q & A talk:

First thing, we’re been working on what I call software-ification, although I’m not sure that’s found in Webster’s dictionary. But the taking our network functions and virtualizing them or creating a software-defined network, we’ve been doing that for 5 years. We’re on track to get 75% of our network functions virtualized by the end of next year. We’ve been on this path for a while.

We’ll continue to be the connectors to the cloud, that transport companies to the cloud, not only business from IBM and Microsoft in our partnerships there, but quite frankly in being the go-to-market partners for those companies as they sell their services to other cloud users, to their other customers. So we feel good about that aspect of it, and that’s really important. And that’s a logical evolution of this path that John Donovan and his team have been on for 5 years. And have really — they’ve really done dramatic
things with reducing our cost. So we feel real good about that.

The winning of the FirstNet contract was important to us because it enabled us to do a number of things. We had some AWS-3 and some WCS spectrum that we had, so to speak, in the warehouse that we hadn’t deployed. We had 700 spectrum, Band 14 from FirstNet, which the government was requiring us to deploy. And then we got a whole new set of technologies that were coming out, 256 QAM and 4-way MIMO and carrier aggregation. They were particularly important to us because of our diverse spectrum portfolio. So we got the FirstNet contract and we had to touch a tower, have to go out on the network. And we decided, with this contract, now is the time to, so to speak, do everything. Put all the spectrum in service, that’s the 60 megahertz. In some towers, it’s 50, some towers, it’s 60, but it’s 60 megahertz of new spectrum that was generally unused that we’re putting in.

For LTE, we have about 150 megahertz by the end of this year on average nationwide. And our nearest competitor on sub-6 has about — in-service, has about 2/3 that amount. So we have 50% increase over our competitors. But we — but at the same time, carrier aggregation, 256 QAM, all of these — 4-way MIMO, all these technologies, we’re able to put the capabilities into the network. And phones were coming out, had been out in some cases, and were coming out that had these capabilities. So not only we’re getting more spectrum, but the phones would work better on that spectral highway. That was all being done.

In addition, we made the decision that we’re spending the capital today, and that’s included, it has been in our numbers for a while now, that we’re putting up equipment that’s 5G-enabled. So when the 5G software for the core network (“5G” mobile packet core today is LTE’s EPC) is available, which we had hoped later this year, certainly next year, we will upgrade a significant part, not all, but a significant part of our network, core network, to 5G through a software upgrade. So we may have to go to the tower but we don’t have to climb the tower. We have to touch the computers at the base, but there’s no — we don’t necessarily need a crane and all of that. So it’s a very efficient upgrade.

So when you think about that, it will be a national — a nationwide coverage, 200 million POPS by the middle of the next year. And certainly, we’d hoped to do it faster. But our commitment on the record is by the middle of next year and the first half of next year. We’re at 60% of our FirstNet buildout as of June. We’re shooting to be 70% at the end of the year. That’s our expectations. I will tell you, the network team has surprised me many times before. And over the last few years, it’s always been to the good. They’ve always gotten more done than we expected.

To give you a sense of it, the 60% completion in June is 9 months ahead of schedule for the FirstNet authority. So we’re working very hard to make them proud of us, happy with us, work with us to get this done, so it’s important. And that 60% coverage is a geographic base, so it includes both urban and rural. So if you think about the end of next year or end of this year being close to 70%, and then the mid part of next year having 200 million POPS covered with 5G. Our network, as it raced today, I did a test sitting in this chair last night, got 134 meg speeds on my phone.

Question: When is FirstNet complete in the construction process?

Stephens answer:  Yes, we have a 5-year contract. And so that we would have 3 years after this year to run. But I would be very hopeful we’d keep this 9-month lead and complete it much quicker. We’ll see how that goes. We’ll continue to work with the FirstNet authority on any kind of other additions, activities they want us to have.  But the great part about it is it improves network quality for customers today, for people walking around with regular phones. And that’s what we want to do. We want to take care of that customer base. We hope that reduces churn, increases satisfaction. Quite frankly, it’s going to lower cost because it’s going to make the use of our spectrum more efficient.

Secondly, we’ll go into a new customer base. We don’t serve the FirstNet community in a great way in the sense of we serve them with the highest quality, but we don’t serve them in a lot of numbers today, and we want to grow that. We have over 8,000 governmental departments, municipalities, cities have approved us. And that’s a process that continues on to get official approval. We have 700,000 FirstNet customers. About half of those were our customers before. Now we’re growing much faster, the new customer base. We’re excited about that. The market is 3 million guys who are firefighters, police officers, EMTs. But then there’s another 11 million group that are people who work, power company emergency employees, gas company emergency employees, hospital workers in emergency situations that will qualify. So it’s a huge 14 million human beings. And then you think about it, some are going to have tablets, some of them are going to have body cams, some of them will have drones, they all have husbands or children or families that can join in. So it’s a really great opportunity for us. So there’s that great opportunity, but it’s really great for our core 90 million customers, voice customers that we have today.

Question: When do you upgrade to 5G on the software upgrade?

Stephens answer: I expect 5G in the core would be in service in the middle of next year, in that kind of 200 million POP range. I don’t want to give anybody the impression it’s going to be every home and everyone. But by the same token, it will be dramatic coverage.

Stephens went on to say how the company’s pre-standard 5G network is being used by a hospital system in Chicago (see next paragraph) and by a manufacturer in Austin. He said initial applications will be very “pragmatic” and focused on process automation and the internet of things. The next step, he said, is matching technical service capabilities with applications as businesses explore, “How can we do this differently, how can we apply this more efficiently?”

In Chicago, AT&T is working with Rush University Medical Center and the Rush System for Health to explore how 5G and multi-access edge computing can benefit healthcare with a focus on streamlining internal data handling while improving patient experience. In Austin, AT&T is working with Samsung to test 5G for manufacturing in the company’s semiconductor fabrication facility. Applications are focused on improved “efficiency, safety, security and operational performance within the manufacturing industry,” according to AT&T.

Stephens said winning the FirstNet contract provided the opportunity “to do everything.” That includes deploying FirstNet’s 700 MHz spectrum while simultaneously putting AWS 3 and WCS spectrum into service, rolling out gigabit LTE features like 4X4 MIMO, 256 QAM and carrier aggregation and installing 5G-ready equipment.

Asked by Oppenheimer & Co.’s Tim Horan what the potential merger of Sprint and T-Mobile US means for AT&T, Stephens said, despite a consent decree from the U.S. Department of Justice, the deal still isn’t done. At a high-level, “Mergers are really hard. You’ve got to bring together two different cultures, two different customer bases. All of that is just hard to do and it’s expensive. So we’ll see what happens.”

Summing up, Stephens said: “For all the things I said about our wireless business, we’re ready to compete. It’s a competitive market today; it’ll be a competitive market tomorrow. We feel good about the ability to compete going forward.”

And what about growing AT&T’s total business in the next 4 years or 5 years?

Let me say it this way. We’re not making predictions about future years, but we do — we’re spending. We’re investing a lot of money in content, we’re investing a lot of money in capital. And that capital is — we’re getting a lot of this network rebuild. And as — and we’re investing in, like for example 5G, we’re investing in the equipment, the hard assets today. So we turn that up next year, and a lot of that will be software, so our capital intensity can go down. With that capital intensity going down, then you can see reasons for good support for great cash flows. And so we feel good about our cash flow position this year and we’re optimistic about where the business is going with regard to the ability to generate cash.



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