Jet lagged yet energetic and cheerful, Comcast Senior VP of Next Generation Access Networks Elad Nafshi returned from a motor bike trip in the European alps (via a red eye flight from Frankfurt, Germany to SFO) to deliver an important keynote speech at the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) Connect 2019 conference in Santa Clara, CA this Friday. A graduate of Tel Aviv University, Mr. Nafshi has been with Comcast for over 14 years.
Elad announced that Comcast, the leading ISP in the U.S. by subscribers, has deployed the open source ONF Trellis software and reference hardware design “in multiple markets with real customers.” He noted that “This is not a technical trial or PoC. We have not deployed a new appliance. We deployed an entire ecosystem.”
Trellis is an SDN-based, multi-purpose leaf-spine (AKA spine-leaf) switching fabric designed for access-and-edge networks, NFV, and edge cloud applications. It uses the Open Network Operating System (ONOS) open source SDN controller running in an x86 based compute server and the OpenFlow protocol as a “southbound API” (Control plane to/from Data plane) to interface with multiple interconnected white box/bare metal L2/L3 switches. That configuration is shown in the illustration below.
Comcast, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, and Infosys collectively authored a reference design for Trellis in April 2019. Reference designs are “blueprints” developed by ONF’s Operator members (AT&T, China Unicom, Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, Google, NTT Group, and Turk Telekom), to address specific use cases for the emerging edge cloud/broadband and mobile access networks.
“In collaboration with the ONF and a team of supply chain vendors, Comcast is deploying the open source Trellis platform as the networking fabric in our next generation access network,” Nafshi said in a press release. “This has been a multiple year journey from design, to extensive field trials and finally to production rollout, and we’re impressed with the results and the advantages that using open source and Trellis are delivering for us as we upgrade our access network,” he added.
While Elad said that Trellis rollouts are accelerating and may “soon come to an area near you,” he declined to answer questions about the locations, size or scale of Comcast’s Trellis deployments. I talked to Elad after his speech and found him to be very engaging and congenial.
Comcast claims an open source- and a white box-based Ethernet backhaul is integral to its next generation network access strategy. By using Trellis, Nafshi said Comcast improved network scalability as well as space and power facility efficiencies in its cable head-ends.
Trellis plays a key role in Comcast’s next generation Distributed Access Architecture (DAA)  strategy, which uses an Ethernet-based converged interconnect network (CIN). Comcast is using Trellis within this CIN.
Note 1. Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) enables the evolution of cable networks by decentralizing and virtualizing headend and network functions. DAA extends the digital portion of the head-end or hub domain out to the fiber optic node and places the digital to RF interface at the optical-coax boundary in the node. Replacing the analog optics from the head-end converts the fiber link to a digital fiber Ethernet link, increasing the available bandwidth improving fiber efficiencies (wavelengths and distance), and directional alignment with NFV/SDN/FTTx systems of the future.
“This has been a multiple year journey from design, to extensive field trails and finally to production rollout, and we’re impressed with the results and the advantages that using open source and Trellis are delivering for us as we upgrade our access network,” Elad said.
While Comcast’s conventional network currently relies on embedded routing and switching protocols running on individual vendor specific switches, Trellis software runs in a cloud-native SDN fashion on a cluster of standard compute server nodes each of which implements a centralized control plane via the ONOS SDN controller. This new SDN based architecture makes network design, deployment, debug and upgrades much simpler, while minimizing network complexity and cost.
“This is real, true production at scale,” said ONF VP of Marketing Timon Sloane. “The design has been vetted and tested and hardened over multiple years. It’s in multiple markets, with tens of thousands of subscribers.”
“The open source ecosystem created by ONF has collectively established a new ‘Distributed DevOps’ model through the process of trialing, hardening and deploying Trellis with Comcast. This has established a new formula for open source whereby an operator, ONF and a consortium of commercial entities come together to collectively build and stand behind a deployment,” said Saurav Das, Vice President of Engineering for the ONF.
Earlier at this week’s ONF Connect 2019 event, Arthur D. Little, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, and Telefónica released a study that found virtualized, cloud-based architectures can save network operators 40% in capex and 25% in opex.
Ren Zhengfei wants to create a competitor for his company.
5G technology—central to Huawei’s future revenue growth—is what founder and CEO Ren said he was ready to share, in a two-hour interview with The Economist on September 10th.
For a one-time fee, a transaction would give the buyer perpetual access to Huawei’s existing 5G patents, licences, code, technical blueprints and production know-how. The acquirer could modify the source code, meaning that neither Huawei nor the Chinese government would have even hypothetical control of any telecoms infrastructure built using equipment produced by the new company. Huawei would likewise be free to develop its technology in whatever direction it pleases.
Mr Ren’s stated aim is to create a rival that could compete in 5G with Huawei (which would keep its existing contracts and continue to sell its own 5G kit). To his mind, this would help level the playing field at a time when many in the West have grown alarmed at the prospect of a Chinese company supplying the gear for most of the world’s new mobile-phone networks. “A balanced distribution of interests is conducive to Huawei’s survival,” Mr Ren says.
No kidding. A months-long assault by America has pummelled the firm, whose global networks it suspects of allowing China to spy on others. America has also attempted to press allies not to use Huawei’s equipment as they begin to build their own 5G networks. In May American companies were barred from selling components and software to Huawei on the grounds that it posed a national-security risk. Last month America restricted government agencies from doing business with it (the firm is challenging this ban in court).
At first glance, Mr Ren’s gesture has much going for it. If the sale eventually gave rise to a thriving competitor, countries such as Australia (which has banned Huawei’s gear) would no longer have to choose between, on the one hand, technology in their networks that is both cutting-edge and cheap, as Huawei’s is, and, on the other, fears of Chinese eavesdropping. They could have the best technology from an ally instead. Decisions on the purchase of telecoms equipment could then return from politicians to pragmatic boardrooms.
The gesture may also convince those suspicious of Huawei’s tech that the firm’s business intentions are hard-nosed. Mr Ren says money from the deal would allow Huawei to “make greater strides forward”. The value of the firm’s entire 5G technology portfolio, if it were sold, could run to tens of billions of dollars. In the past decade the company has spent at least $2bn on research and development for the new generation of mobile connectivity.
In saying he wants to create a fairer technological race, Mr Ren is also attempting to dissociate American security fears from those of Huawei’s market dominance. His offer is “essentially calling their bluff”, says Samm Sacks of New America, a think-tank in Washington, DC. As she points out, America’s government is working out how to create a rival to Huawei, whether by fostering American firms or helping bolster its two main global competitors, Ericsson, a Swedish firm, and Nokia, a Finnish one. Moves are also afoot to make certain components of mobile networks interchangeable with each other, to let carriers mix and match suppliers more easily. OpenRAN, a standards body, wants infrastructure manufacturers like Huawei to agree on standards for the technology in their networks that shuttles data around to ease interoperability. Huawei has so far declined to join.
Yet questions over the feasibility of the deal abound. Would China accept hiving off a core part of one of its few globally powerful corporations? For better or worse, 5G has become a proxy for superpowerdom. As Mr Ren told The Economist, “5G represents speed” and “countries that have speed will move forward rapidly. On the contrary, countries that give up speed and excellent connectivity technology may see economic slowdown.”
Even if the Chinese state gave its blessing, who might be the buyer? Mr Ren says he has “no idea”. Analysts suspect that giants such as Ericsson and Nokia would balk at an offer out of pride, and would question the value of Huawei’s tech. (Having posted losses last year, they are also short of cash.) The technology may not help a smaller firm compete on an equal footing with Huawei. The Chinese firm is so well entrenched with big operators, say consultants, that it would not make financial sense for most of them to take on a new supplier. Samsung, a South Korean electronics giant, has deep pockets and a smallish but growing networking-gear business—and without rival bidders, it could drive a hard bargain. A consortium of buyers is possible; who would make one up is unclear, however.
Suitors may be put off by other considerations. If Huawei really is ready to transfer the entirety of its technology to another company, then, as Mr Wang points out, “it has to accept the risk of a major competitor in the future.” But Huawei’s dominance owes as much to technology as to its low prices and the speed at which it can roll products out, says Ms Sacks. Its willingness to serve places Western firms steer clear of is also a factor: who else besides Huawei would wade through malarial swamps in Africa and haul base stations up the flanks of Colombian mountains? Mr Ren knows this. Asked whether he thought that an American firm, with Huawei’s precious know-how in hand, would be able to pull it off, he said, with swagger, “I don’t think so.” But potential buyers know it, too.
Lastly, few believe that a sale would placate America’s national-security apparatus, at least in the short run. A new competitor would almost certainly still need to make equipment in China, which makes half of America’s telecoms kit. Concerns about Chinese meddling would not go away. And Huawei’s latest offensive is not all charm. Last week it accused American officials of committing infractions while posing as Huawei workers, in order to “bring unsubstantiated accusations against the company”. It also accused America’s government of targeting it with cyber-attacks. That may sour relations.
Could Mr Ren’s proposal, then, be a sign of desperation? Not a bit of it, he says. He claims that Huawei has found alternative suppliers for its network-infrastructure business that are unaffected by its blacklisting by America. He denies that the company will make a loss in the coming year.
Nonetheless, the consumer business is under pressure. Half of the company’s $105bn in sales last year came from the 208m smartphones it sold around the world. So did an outsized share of profits. This business is in deep trouble. Phones that Huawei sells outside China are desirable communication devices largely thanks to proprietary software available exclusively from Google. Android, Google’s mobile operating system, which Huawei uses, is open-source and freely available. But the American tech giant’s own apps are not. Because Google is American and its apps are compiled in America, the Commerce Department’s ban on sales of American technology to Huawei applies to them.
Mr Ren says that Google has been lobbying the Trump administration to allow it to resume supplying Huawei with proprietary Android software, but so far to no avail. Unless American policy changes, Huawei will remain stuck with the open-source version of Android, without any of the apps that consumers have come to expect. The Chinese firm is in the process of developing its own operating system, Harmony OS, but it will be no rival to the mature Android ecosystem for years to come.
This means that all new Huawei phones will ship without Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube or, crucially, Google Play Store. The Play Store is what allows Android users to download apps like Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook easily. WhatsApp in particular has become a standard mode of communication in much of the world outside America. Unless its government lets up, Huawei’s new smartphones will be little more than decent cameras that make phone calls. The firm will launch the Mate 30, the first top-end phone since its blacklisting, on September 19th in Munich. Huawei claims its hardware features will buoy sales. But a phone which lacks basic functions is unlikely to be a hit. A weakened consumer business would dent profits.
Huawei’s share of the Chinese smartphone market, where it has never relied on Google’s apps, is growing fast. But two-fifths of its annual phone sales, or roughly $20bn, come from outside the country. Though the firm’s executives repeatedly declined to share any projections, firm-wide revenue growth in the nine months to August slowed to 19%, year on year, from 23% in the first half of 2019. If the Mate 30 and its successors flop, Huawei stands to lose billions of dollars in annual revenue.
Similar supply-chain challenges affect other parts of its business. Its coders are busily writing Huawei’s own version of software tools known as compilers and libraries, themselves used to create the software that powers all manner of electronic devices, not just smartphones. As with Android, Huawei would have to create its own version of these, and a technological ecosystem around them. Such ecosystems take years to evolve, and there is only so much one company can do to stimulate this evolution, which relies on third-party developers, with their own goals and incentives. Huawei’s expertise in high, hard technology is of little use here.
And, Mr Ren’s assurances notwithstanding, Huawei’s finances are being squeezed. Even he concedes that its relations with large Western banks such as HSBC and Standard Chartered have been disrupted. Still, the firm has plenty of cash and he says that smaller banks remain willing to lend to Huawei. The Chinese Development Bank, which has reportedly extended credit lines to Huawei and ZTE, a Chinese competitor, in the past, may stump up if needed. Mr Ren and his underlings repeatedly claim that cashflow is “healthy”, pointing to the firm’s furious building work. It has just finished a 120 hectare, $1.4bn research campus.
Huawei is being forced to transform itself from a company that makes and sells hardware into one that also makes many components that it used to buy from others. This kind of shift strains a firm. Its cash cow is under threat even as it has to invest heavily to replace the suppliers and software it can no longer get from America. Mr Ren might hope that his proposed sale of Huawei’s 5G technology will give him sufficient fuel for Huawei to fly ever higher. But peer behind the showy frescoes in Shenzhen, and his showier gesture, and Huawei’s future looks decidedly hazy.
Since 2016, ITU-T has organized meetings of high-level, private sector executives to discuss the standardization landscape, identifying and coordinating standards priorities and ways to best meet the needs of the private sector. This year’s meeting was in conjunction with ITU Telecom World 2019.
Among the key conclusions of the 2019 Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) meeting, held earlier this week in Budapest, Hungary:
- Industry collaboration will be key to security in the 5G era.
- The sharing of network infrastructure could help operators to deliver new services faster, at lower cost.
- 5G continues to highlight the necessity of investment in all-fiber networks (for backhaul, metro and core networks).
- Machine Learning is certain to form part of our 5G future.
CTOs highlighted that standardization and open-source projects both stand to benefit from close interaction.
They also suggested that a ‘5G observatory’ to share lessons learnt from 5G testbeds and early commercial deployments could assist developing countries in gaining greater clarity around the business opportunities presented by 5G.
With a view to discussing industry needs and associated standardization priorities, the meeting brought together representatives of companies including China Mobile, du, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Futurewei Technologies, Global Voice Group, Huawei, Juniper Networks, Nokia, NTT, Orange, Rohde & Schwarz, Symantec, Telkom Indonesia, TELUS, Tunisie Télécom, UNITEL and Verizon.
The meeting issued a communiqué summarizing trends in information and communication technology (ICT) of growing relevance to ITU standardization.
5G security will demand significant industry collaboration and well-coordinated contributions from a wide range of standards bodies. In this author’s opinion, that is not happening at all! CTOs considered the ‘Ottawa Accord’, a set of security priorities developed in June 2019 by network operators, standards bodies and industry associations.
The CTO meeting endorsed the findings of the Ottawa Accord in relation to three security priorities:
- Global threat exchange: Common understanding of security threats and common terminology to enable the sharing of threat intelligence.
- Best practices for operational security: Best practices for 5G security and widespread commitment to infrastructure protection.
- Security Incentives: Measurement schemes based on agreed metrics could bring attention to prevailing levels of security and create incentives for investment in security.
CTOs also considered that a holistic approach to 5G era security could receive valuable support from a global centre for the development of security solutions and their testing and assurance. Such a ‘living lab’ open to multiple interested parties, said CTOs, could bring cohesion to 5G security efforts as well as reduce the costs of testing security solutions.
Infrastructure sharing can assist network operators in reducing time-to-market for new solutions and in gaining cost efficiencies. CTOs illustrated potential scenarios for the sharing of infrastructure such as core networks, central offices, backhaul infrastructure, and towers and radio access networks.
CTOs considered an example of ‘Multi-Core Operator Networks’, networks said to be capable of reducing an operator’s infrastructure investments by as much as 50 per cent and also enable improvements in network performance.
IEEE Techblog recently reported on 5G network sharing in China. We expect more of this in the near future.
5G will support enhanced mobile broadband, massive-scale Internet of Things, and ultra-reliable and low latency communications for applications such as Virtual Reality and automated driving. It presents a key opportunity for network operators to serve consumers as well as other industry sectors.
But 5G deployment calls for considerable investment, leading CTOs to highlight that network operators – particularly in developing countries – may benefit from greater clarity around the business opportunities presented by 5G.
CTOs thus suggested that ITU consider the establishment of ‘5G observatory’ to share lessons learnt from 5G testbeds and early commercial deployments.
CTOs with experience in the early commercial deployment of 5G reiterated the importance of investment in fiber optic networks, which form the ‘backbone’ of the Information Society. Investment in fiber continues to rise, with fiber recognized as the key infrastructure underlying today’s ultra-broadband Gigabit era.
Recognizing ITU’s leadership in the standardization of fiber-optic networks, technologies and infrastructures, CTOs encouraged ITU to support industry in taking full advantage of ITU-standardized Fiber to the Home (FTTH) technologies.
A more homogeneous environment for the assessment of QoS and QoE would deliver key benefits to national regulators, said CTOs. The shift to packet-based communications and the increasing importance of over-the-top (OTT) applications introduces new challenges to the assessment of QoS and QoE. The prices of data and data-enabled devices are decreasing, making these assessment challenges progressively more relevant to developing countries.
CTOs recognized the value of ITU’s technical guidance to regulators on QoS and QoE, highlighting that collaboration in standardization builds common understanding and trust between regulators and network operators.
Machine Learning holds great promise to enhance network management and orchestration. Drawing insight from network-generated data, Machine Learning can yield predictions to support the optimization of network operations and maintenance.
This optimization is becoming increasingly challenging, and increasingly important, as networks gain in complexity to support the coexistence of a diverse range of ICT services. Here CTOs expressed support for the work of the ITU-T Focus Group studying Machine Learning’s contribution to 5G and future networks.
The use of open source in the development of both software and hardware will add value to standardization activities, said CTOs, activities that must be capable of supporting technological as well as business aspects of open-source development.
CTOs discussed examples of successful ITU interaction with open-source communities, highlighting the value of this interaction to both standardization and open-source projects. Proactive interaction, said CTOs, can result in working instances of standards and practical feedback to standardization projects, as well as standard-compliant code to open-source projects.
The theme for this year’s ITU Telecom World event, “Innovating together: connectivity that matters”, highlights the importance of global collaboration to ensure that everyone benefits from the digital revolution, especially those in developing nations, said ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao.
“At stake is the chance to transform and improve the lives of millions across the globe in support of the [United Nations] Sustainable Development Goals and closing the digital divide,” said Mr Zhao. “I believe we can make a difference right here and now with ITU Telecom World 2019.”
From 9–12 September 2019, ITU Telecom World will explore innovations in technology, including new radio technologies, 5G, Artificial Intelligence and smart cities, as well as innovation in policy, strategy and regulatory approaches.
“There is no doubt: Innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G and the Internet of Things, can help us achieve the sustainable development goals and improve the lives of all,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said via video message during the opening ceremony.
But with the advance of new technologies such as 5G, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, there is a real danger that developing nations will be left further behind in the current digital revolution era.
Universal access to these technologies is just one aspect of creating inclusive global digital societies. Connectivity needs to have meaning. It must be affordable and relevant on a local level, which means local content in local languages, supported by digital literacy and skills programs. Another vital aspect is ensuring technologies are trusted, which requires robust data management, increased education, and cyber-security.
Lu Lu, a senior researcher at the China Mobile Research Institute, said in an industry speech last week that China’s largest wireless network operator expects its 5G network to reach 50 cities by the end of 2019 and 300 major cities by the end of 2020. Ms. Lu said that China Mobile aimed to reach commercial scale in 5G by June next year and that 5G private networking will be a major new enterprise network service. Edge computing, which was not used for 4G-LTE, was seen as essential for delivering customizable private networks, she said. The flexible architecture of the new 5G network was the critical factor, allowing for much more granular services and applications.
In addition, China Mobile is planning to offer network slicing services by the middle of next year when its standalone 5G network achieves commercial scale. That despite no standards for network slicing interoperability between different vendors.
“At present, China Mobile has reserved hundreds of nodes in edge computing rooms. Based on these nodes and 5G networks we will carry out trials of relevant edge computing services,” Lu said. China Mobile and its partners hoped to provide “full-stack edge-computing capabilities to industry customers,” she added.
The Chinese telco is building a “one-stop cloud-network convergence platform” that can provide customized service capabilities in both centralized data centers and data centers at the edge of cities around the country, Lu said. The operator has issued network slicing templates for six industry verticals — power grid, autonomous driving, gaming, entertainment, banking and medical. In partnership with Ericsson, China Mobile exhibited a network slicing-based autonomous vehicle application at MWC2019 in Barcelona earlier this year.
Earlier this year, Ms. Lu delivered a speech to introduce the achievements of the cooperation between China Mobile, Huawei, and Baidu, and elaborated on the concept of “5G network as a service”. She also invited partners to jointly build the 5G ecosystem and continuously promote the maturity of 5G technologies and industry development.
China Mobile Executive Vice-President Li Zhengmao has said he believes private networking and network slicing offered some of the best prospects among new 5G services.
“Operators can create a network-slicing-as-a-service business model, providing high-reliability, high-performance and easy deployment for the vertical industry through a centralized network slicing service platform,” he said in an interview with state news service Xinhua.
But he acknowledged that the lack of clear business models in industry partnerships was one of the biggest problems.
China Mobile has set up a 5G Joint Innovation Center to drive application development, with more than 500 industry partners and more than 400 vertical industry partners, Li said.
Separately, China Telecom and China Unicom, agreed to share the efforts to build and maintain 5G radio access networks across the country. The purpose is to accelerate deployment and slash associated infrastructure costs.
Each wireless carrier will be responsible for operating their own core networks, but will share spectrum resources and a single RAN network (which typically accounts for around 80 per cent of an operator’s capex). Under the agreement, the two companies will be individually responsible for construction and maintenance in specific regions.
In a statement China Telecom said: “The commencement of the co-build and co-share cooperation is beneficial to the efficient construction of [the] 5G network and will rapidly create 5G service capability to enhance network quality and business experience.”
It added the reduced costs would reinforce market competitiveness and achieve a win-win for both parties.
Both operators will continue to handle core networks and branding completely independently, with the collaboration only applying to the construction and ongoing maintenance of physical infrastructure assets. The network will use the companies’ combined spectrum.
In 2016, the operators collaborated on 4G network construction, a move which reportedly saved China Unicom millions in capex within the first year and helped the two better compete with the country’s largest operator, China Mobile.
SK Telecom (SKT) today announced that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Samsung Electronics to jointly develop and commercialize the world’s first 5G-8K TV. SKT said the 5G-8K TV will revolutionize users’ television-watching experience by directly receiving 8K video over SK Telecom’s ultra-low latency and ultra-wideband 5G network.
SKT launched its 5G service simultaneously with its rival Korean cellular carriers in early April. Korea’s largest mobile operator by subscribers said it reached the 1 million 5G subscriber milestone on 21 August.
*8K (7680×4320 resolution) is the highest resolution currently in existence, a fourfold enhancement of UHD standard.
SK Telecom plans to apply Mobile Edge Computing and Network-Based Media Processing to its pre-standard 5G network to realize seamless transmission of 8K video. Samsung Electronics will apply its 8K AI Upscaling and next-generation codec technologies to upgrade full HD and UHD images to 8K resolution. The company will also equip 8K TVs with 5G dongles to support direct transmission of 8K resolution video content.
Park Jin-hyo, second from left, who heads SK Telecom’s ICT Technology Center, and Lee Hee-man, right, who heads Samsung Electronics’ VD Service PM Group, with other officials after signing a MOU to develop 8K TV powered by 5G networks. / Courtesy of SK Telecom.
Viewers will be able to watch video content of POOQ* and oksusu at 8K resolution.
*POOQ is an over-the-top video subscription service offering programs on terrestrial TV. It is a joint platform of Korea’s terrestrial broadcasters.
The two companies have also agreed to jointly evolve 5G-8K TV further to deliver a new user experience by working together in the areas including eSpace, SK Telecom’s hyper-space platform for replicating the real world in cyberspace, and 5G Sero TV, a 5G-based television that can be rotated both horizontally and vertically to provide a smartphone-like UX for TV users.
Moreover, they plan to develop B2B business models in areas of smart office and digital signage by adding 5G connectivity to televisions and displays.
SK Telecom introduced technologies related to ‘5G connected screen’ at an MPEG held in July 2019 and was designated as the NBMP (Network Based Media Processing) chair company to lead international standardization of 5G connected screen related technologies. To this end, SK Telecom will newly open Hyper Media Lab under its ICT R&D Center.
“The 5G-8K TV is the culmination of ultra-low latency 5G networks combined with ultra-high definition TV technology,” said Park Jin-hyo, Chief Technology Officer and Head of ICT R&D Center at SK Telecom. “5G technology will help make the world of hyper media a reality.”
Samsung Electronics will utilize artificial intelligence features that upscale lower-quality content to appear close to 8K resolution. Samsung will equip its 8K TV with a small piece of hardware, called a dongle, to support wireless reception of 8K images.
The Berlin-based IFA consumer electronics show keynotes from Qualcomm, Huawei, and Samsung illustrated the telecom supplier industry’s strong dedication to 5G System on a Chip (SoC). Yet this comes more than one year before the IMT 2020 Radio Interface Technology (RIT) standard has been completed and six months (or more) before 3GPP Release 16 (which will specify ultra low latency and ultra high reliability) has been finalized. Hence, we wonder if major revisions of announced 5G SoC’s and chipsets will be required in IMT 2020 standard endpoint devices?
Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon’s keynote presentation described the company’s 5G strategy, which is focused in part on driving access to 5G end point devices. Amon promised to bring 5G mobile phones to the masses with a high-end modem and said Qualcomm chips would also power mid-price 5G devices reaching the market next year.
Qualcomm’s second-generation X55 modem supports 5G at both sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave frequencies and supports peak downlink speeds of 7 Gbps and peak uplink speeds of 3 Gbps.
Notable in Qualcomm’s IFA presentation is support for dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) across the 6-, 7- and 8-series Snapdragon mobile platforms. In addition to bringing down the price point on 5G phones, this fits with operators plans to rapidly scale coverage in 2020 by using DSS, which lets LTE and 5G operate in the same band at the same time. More on DSS (Ericsson and Qualcomm 5G data call) in this techblog post.
As wireless network providers introduce or expand their 5G network offerings, “We need to enable the operators to have that ecosystem ready so you can start providing new devices with dynamic spectrum sharing… We want all the users to have the benefit of this technology,” Amon told the IFA audience.
To make that 5G ecosystem possible, Amon announced Qualcomm would bring its portfolio of 5G mobile platforms out of just the 8-series and into the 7- and 6-series in 2020. Amon said a dozen OEMs were already onboard. with the 5G-enabled 7-series. “We are going to bring 5G to scale with our many partners.”
“Qualcomm have done a phenomenal job to drive the 5G ecosystem,” said industry analyst Paolo Pescatore. “It’s going faster than anyone could have ever imagined.”
–>We certainly agree with that comment – Qualcomm has done a splendid job, but much more work remains before an IMT 2020 chipset/SoC is introduced – most likely in mid 2021. Qualcomm will likely be partnering with carriers to market new devices. It’s typical for operators to market subsidized handsets in the United States, but much less so in Europe.
5G live in five cities:
Deutsche Telekom said today that its 5G network is now operational in five German cities — Berlin, Cologne, Munich, Bonn, and Darmstadt. The German telco market leader paid 2.2 billion euros ($2.5 billion) for 5G spectrum at a recent auction and the regulator has just unlocked access to the 3.6 Gigahertz band that will power its initial 5G offering.
- A total of 129 antennas across the country are now transmitting ‘genuine’ 5G (3GPP Release 15 5G NR NSA) with a bandwidth in excess of 1G bit/sec.
- 66 antennae clustered in Berlin’s Mitte district form what Deutsche Telekom is calling “the largest continuous 5G coverage area in Germany.”
- Berlin now sports Germany’s biggest continuous 5G coverage area – six square kilometers.
“We are bringing 5G to city streets in line with our customers’ needs,” explains Walter Goldenits, Chief Technology Officer at Telekom Deutschland GmbH.
“We’re starting off where data usage is high and are establishing continuous coverage areas in these places. After all, it’s not just about having 5G show up on screen – it’s about experiencing the real strengths of 5G from the very start. We want to build up as much experience as possible in terms of transmission planning during the initial expansion stage in 2019. We’re learning more with every single antenna we set up and adjust,” Goldenits added.
Coverage will currently be patchy, with 5G service typically available in isolated spots around each antenna. Deutsche Telekom promises to expand its coverage in the initial launch cities to serve larger areas.
Deutsche Telekom has different priorities in its five 5G launch cities to learn from its rollout prior to mass deployment:
- Berlin: The focus in Germany’s capital is to ensure the network can scale to meet the demands of the city, including its tourist hotspots.
- Cologne: Deutsche Telekom is aiming for a ring of infrastructure in the city centre.
- Munich: The priority in Munich is to serve businesses with 5G, by the end of the year Deutsche Telekom plans for its network to cover important areas such as BMW Park and the the Unterföhring media center.
- Bonn: Deutsche Telekom is testing 5G for dual-use in Bonn. The focus will be on business-use during typical working hours and switch to prioritise leisure-use on evenings and weekends.
- Darmstadt: More general 5G usage appears to be the plan for Darmstadt, with coverage extending towards the city centre and university areas in the coming 18 months.
Further cities are set to be added over the remainder of 2019. Hamburg and Leipzig are the next two cities in Deutsche Telekom’s 5G rollout plans, with more than 300 antennas set to be installed across Germany by the year’s end.
5G competition from Vodafone Germany:
It should be noted that telco rival Vodafone has also announced its 5G rollout in Germany and is challenging Deutsche Telekom on price. The company’s first 5G base stations were activated at an event in Düsseldorf in mid-July, with help from cellular infrastructure equipment supplier Ericsson. Vodafone is also using equipment from Huawei in its 5G network in Germany, according to Reuters. This summer, Vodafone Germany announced it paid €1.88 billion ($2.1 billion) at Germany’s 5G spectrum auction, picking up 90 MHz in the 3.6 GHz band and 40 MHz of 2100 MHz spectrum.
“To begin with, we are using 4G locations for 5G, as the new technology is being synchronized and brought to the network via LTE. You could say that 5G is piggybacking on LTE,” Goldenits explains. “When it comes to achieving rapid expansion, we appreciate the support of city and municipal authorities, particularly in terms of securing approvals quickly.”
Deutsche Telekom is establishing the 5G antennae in addition to its ongoing LTE rollout. There are plans to set up approximately 4,000 new LTE mobile base stations in 2019 and 2020, half of which will be located in rural areas. These new stations will be backed up by several thousand LTE extensions for existing masts, as Deutsche Telekom aims to extend LTE coverage to 98 percent of the population by the end of the year.
Deutsche Telekom is also continuing to expand LTE at coverage gaps, and is adopting a whole new approach with its “Wir jagen Funklöcher” (We’re closing coverage gaps) campaign. Under this initiative, communities that have no coverage can apply to Deutsche Telekom for one of 50 masts. As part of this approach, the company will be working hand in hand with municipal authorities to close the gaps in LTE. What’s more, the masts on offer are also already prepared for 5G.
Devices and plans:
Consumers need new devices in order to use 5G, and the first approved commercial products are now available in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and – exclusively available from Deutsche Telekom – the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G. There is also the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G and the HTC 5G HUB. More devices are set to follow in the near future.
5G means higher bandwidths, faster transmission speeds, shorter response times, and a much more innovative network. From the smallest plan, MagentaMobil S at 39.95 euros per month, to the MagentaMobil XL package (84.95 euros per month), the new plans are all 5G-enabled.
Ericsson said in a press release that it made the world’s first 5G data call using dynamic spectrum sharing. Ericsson Spectrum Sharing allows an existing LTE carrier to operate 5G New Radio (NR) and LTE simultaneously – with a simple software upgrade. The solution is based on innovative intelligent scheduler algorithms that enable optimal performance as the mix of 4G and 5G devices in the network changes over time.
The 5G data call was made between a 5G mobile test device powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System and a commercial LTE smartphone. The LTE smartphone and the 5G testing device data call sections were running simultaneously on the same FDD low band spectrum, the referenced commercial hardware and Ericsson Radio System software. The call took place in August at Ericsson’s lab in Ottawa, Canada using an Ericsson macro radio that supported both 4G and 5G.
Ericsson said that this technology is poised to change how new generation radio access technologies are introduced in operator networks using one of the most limited resources in mobile, which is spectrum. With dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS), operators can introduce 5G immediately in the same band as 4G. The technology dynamically allocates spectrum resources between 4G and 5G based on user demand.
Ericsson says its DSS is based on proprietary scheduler algorithms that enable optimal performance as the mix of 4G and 5G devices in the network changes over time.
Ericsson Spectrum Sharing software dynamically shares spectrum between 4G and 5G carriers based on traffic demand. For every millisecond, the split of simultaneous 4G and 5G capacity is adjusted to secure an optimal performance for any mix of 4G and 5G active devices in the network. This minimizes spectrum wastage and results in the best end-user performance.
Per Narvinger, Head of Product Area Networks, Ericsson, says, “With Ericsson Spectrum Sharing, service providers can reuse their Ericsson Radio System investments on bands currently used for LTE to support the introduction of 5G. With the TCO advantages offered by Ericsson Spectrum Sharing, we are convinced that it will be a catalyst to drive the rapid build-out of wide area 5G coverage. This first call marks an important milestone in evolving the 5G networks to cater for the extreme demands ahead.”
“This achievement is the result of our longstanding collaboration with Ericsson and is a critical step toward enabling operators worldwide to utilize DSS for a seamless global transition to nationwide 5G,” said Durga Malladi, senior vice president and general manager, 4G/5G, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “With DSS support included in our comprehensive Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System architecture, we’re looking forward to helping fast-track the mobile industry to nationwide coverage during the second phase of 5G commercialization next year.”
As 5G commercial rollouts move ahead, spectrum sharing represents an attractive option for service providers looking to rapidly roll out 5G on FDD bands without the need to re-farm spectrum. This milestone achieved by Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies shows real progress towards rapid 5G commercialization, with dynamic spectrum sharing playing a key role.
Traditionally, new generation radio access technologies are deployed on separate spectrum blocks – as was the case with 2G, 3G and 4G. This would require operators to buy new spectrum or re-farm the existing spectrum to allocate the new generation. This is a very slow and costly process. Spectrum re-farming could take a decade but with spectrum sharing, this can be done overnight. Dynamic spectrum sharing revolutionizes the introduction of new technologies with a breakthrough innovation that allows the deployment of both 4G and 5G in the same band and dynamically allocates spectrum resources between 4G and 5G based on user demand.
Ericsson says it provides an opportunity for service providers to extend the coverage of new 5G NR mid and high bands by applying Inter-band NR Carrier Aggregation between low-mid and low-high frequency bands. Here, Ericsson Spectrum Sharing is key to allowing an easy introduction of NR on low bands. In combination with NR Carrier Aggregation, spectrum sharing can typically double the coverage area of new 5G mid and high band cells, delivering hundreds of megabits per second indoors and at cell edge.
According to an Ericsson study* 73 percent of the service providers that were the first to move on with 4G have gained market share in their respective markets. The combination of l fast time-to commercialization with low investments requirements has made spectrum sharing an essential part of an operator’s 5G strategy.
*Ericsson study on 15 largest markets in the world that have 4G (Data from Ovum WCS database).
Verizon’s CEO Hans Vestberg has repeatedly said that the carrier plans to use Ericsson’s DSS as an integral part of its 5G strategy. However, Ericsson’s DSS technology only works on its New Radio equipment deployed in the same spectrum currently being used for LTE. And, Verizon has not divulged whether it is deploying Ericsson NR equipment in any of its LTE spectrum. When talking about 5G, Verizon mainly talks about its mmWave deployments in high frequency spectrum that has never been used for LTE.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere said on a recent earnings call, “To get to dynamic spectrum sharing, you’ll deploy New Radio. So, I am yet to hear anybody in Verizon declare that they are deploying New Radio in low-band or mid-band. And, if you want to use DSS, you are effectively committing in the same breath to rolling out 5G in mid- and low band. I haven’t heard that yet as a declared strategy for a Verizon.”
Cincinnati Bell is the latest telco to undertake a smart city deployment project. Under an agreement with the city of Dayton, OH, Cincinnati Bell will install fiber and provide free Wi-Fi in the historic Oregon district of the city. The regional telecom network provider will also provide technology for cameras on the street as well as software to help economic development efforts.
Cincinnati Bell smart city deployment includes:
- Analytics and engagement software to support local businesses and drive economic development
- Cameras will be installed throughout the business district, including in alleyways and parking lots
- Links from the Wi-Fi portal will enable users to easily contact legislators and/or make donations to The Dayton Foundation
“We are so incredibly grateful for Cincinnati Bell’s generosity,” said Kyle Babirad, president of the Oregon District Business Association.
“The importance of connectivity within the Oregon District cannot be overstated. Cincinnati Bell’s work with us improves our ability to connect with each other and with the broader Dayton community.”
“Cincinnati Bell is committed to supporting the City of Dayton and Oregon District Business Association,” said Jason Praeter, president and general manager of Cincinnati Bell’s Entertainment and Communications business.
“As a lifelong Dayton resident currently residing in Bellbrook, I am especially proud that Cincinnati Bell is a part of this important project,” he added.
The Cincinnati Bell smart city deployments in Dayton is the latest example of a telecom provider getting involved with a smart city deployment within or near its serving area. Other examples:
- AT&T participated in a smart lighting project in Atlanta, Georgia.
- Smart lighting also was a focus for a C Spire smart city deployment in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
- Sprint deployed Wi-Fi in Kansas City to support public Wi-Fi connectivity as well as video cameras and smart lighting.
In some cases, service providers are getting involved in these projects to learn more about the smart city and to enhance public perceptions of the company. But some smart city projects have the potential to benefit service providers in other ways and have generated competition among service providers.
For example, AT&T and Verizon both pursued smart city opportunities in San Jose and each company ended up being involved in a different aspect of the project. A key motivation was the possibility of gaining access to prime small cell locations within the city.
French telecommunications network operator Iliad has announced a strategic agreement with Nokia to roll out its 5G networks in France and Italy. In a statement, Iliad said deployment of 5G will start in 2020 and will eventually be made available to its 17 million or so mobile subscribers in the two countries.
Iliad emphasized that by retaining Nokia for 5G, it had “made a clear choice for European technology and strategic independence.” The companies have partnered in the rollout of 3G and 4G mobile networks since 2010.
With the right frequencies, 5G will enable Iliad to connect more customers, support the exponential growth of usages, and meet the needs of companies following the launch of its B2B operations in France in the near future. Iliad has a latest-generation mobile network stretching across France, which, thanks to the constant densification and almost systematic use of fiber to backhaul sites, will be ready for 5G as soon as the new frequencies are made available.
The decision comes amid U.S.-led scrutiny of Chinese rival Huawei Technologies Co., which is essentially barred from the U.S. over concerns that the Chinese government could order Huawei to spy on or disable communications networks. The U.S. has been urging allies to enact similar bans and some governments, including France, have avoided Huawei after saying the concerns are legitimate. Huawei says it is employee-owned and has never done espionage or sabotage on behalf of any government. e.g. China.
Iliad confirmed that it plans to launch its B2B operations in France in the near future and will be ready for 5G as soon as the new frequencies are made available “thanks to the constant densification and almost systematic use of fibre to backhaul sites.”
Iliad, which offers services under its Free brand, has more than 13.4 million mobile customers in France and more than 3.3 million mobile customers in Italy.
In Italy the company currently uses the Wind Tre network for 3G and 4G coverage but has reached agreements to rent out 4G and future 5G capacity on 11,000-plus towers owned by Telecom Italia’s tower unit Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane (Inwit) as well as the 7,766 towers owned by Spanish operator Cellnex. It’s also in the process of expanding its own infrastructure network with a view to becoming an independent operator in the medium term and is aiming to reach 3,500 installed sites by the end of 2019.
Iliad Financial Comments (Sources: telecoms.com and reuters):
This is somewhat of an important juncture for the Iliad, which has recently had difficult financial periods. Despite taking the French market by storm in the early years, Iliad has been suffering at the hands of competition as rivals stepping their own promotional pricing. The last financial period looked much more promising, though it still has some work to do to repair the damage. In May, Iliad reported an increase in mobile service revenues in France of 2.3%, however the total number of subscribers decreased by 50,000, down to 13.4 million.
The damage was most notable during 2018. During the first half of that year, Iliad was beaten at its own game, being undercut by rivals and being forced into announced a reduction in profit forecasts. Q1 in 2018 saw churn of 200,000 mobile subscriptions, the first net decline since the introduction of Iliad in 2012. The broadband business suffered the same fate, resulting in roughly a 40% share price crash across the whole of 2018.
In March 2019, Reuters reported that Iliad was sounding out funds to buy part of its mobile towers business as it seeks to raise cash after heavy promotions hit its sales in 2018. Iliad hopes to generate cash flow of more than 800 million euros next year and around 1 billion euros in 2021. It had previously aimed for around 1 billion euros in 2020. The group has shaken up the French mobile market since 2012 with low-cost services, but is now facing aggressive fixed and mobile discounts from French rivals Altice Europe’s SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Orange.
It lost about 250,000 mobile subscribers and 93,000 broadband clients in France in 2018, while at the same time investing hundreds of millions of euros in Italy, where it is building a mobile infrastructure from scratch.
Looking at the most recent numbers, there is a bit more stability and perhaps this is where the greatest enthusiasm for an aggressive 5G rollout will emerge from. In both France and Italy, Iliad has an opportunity to generate momentum through the new connectivity euphoria. This is an era which, once again, looks perfect for aggressive pricing and the first to scale 5G across a nation will reap the profits.