Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp (Space X) has launched more than 1,000 satellites for its Starlink internet service and is signing up early customers in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. SpaceX has told investors that Starlink is angling for a piece of a $1 trillion market made up of in-flight internet, maritime services, demand in China and India — and rural customers such as Brian Rendel. He became a Starlink tester in November after struggling for years with sluggish internet speeds at his 160-acre farm overlooking Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. After he paid about $500 for the equipment, FedEx arrived with a flat dish and antenna. For $99 a month, Rendel is now getting speeds of 100 megabytes per second for downloads and 15 to 20 for uploads — far faster, he says, than his previous internet provider.
“This is a game changer,” said Rendel, a mental health counselor, who can now easily watch movies and hold meetings with clients over Zoom. “It makes me feel like I’m part of civilization again.”
For months, SpaceX has been launching Starlink satellites on its Falcon 9 rockets in batches of 60 at a time, and the 17th Starlink launch was on Jan. 20. There are now roughly 960 functioning satellites in orbit, heralding an age of mega-constellations that have prompted worries about visual pollution for astronomers.
But the Starlink array in low-Earth orbit, closer to the planet than traditional satellites, is enough to enable SpaceX to roll out service along a wide swath of North America and the U.K. As SpaceX sends up more satellites, the coverage area will grow, expanding the potential customer base — and revenue stream — beyond the initial stages of today.
“The big deal is that people are happy with the service and the economics of Starlink versus other alternatives,” said Luigi Peluso, managing director with Alvarez & Marsal, who follows the aerospace and defense industries. “SpaceX has demonstrated the viability of their solution.”
Last year, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said that Starlink is a business that SpaceX– one of the most richly valued venture-backed companies in the U.S. — is likely to spin out and take public. That dangles the possibility of another Musk enterprise offering shares after last year’s sensational stock-market gains by Tesla Inc.
Starlink will face plenty of competition. While fiber optic cable is widely considered too expensive to lay down in remote regions and many rural locations, cellular connectivity is expected to make big advances with 5G and then 6G. Meanwhile, a number of innovative attempts to extend cellular to unserved areas are being developed by other well-heeled companies such as Facebook Inc.
“There will always be early Starlink adopters who think that anything from Elon Musk is cool,” said John Byrne, a telecom analyst at GlobalData. “But it’s hard to see the satellite trajectory keeping pace with the improvements coming with cellular.”
SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, California, is primarily known for launching rockets for global satellite operators, the U.S. military, and NASA. Last year, SpaceX made history by becoming the first private company to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. Maintaining strong service while growing the customer base is something SpaceX has never tried before.
“Like any network, Starlink is going to enjoy rave reviews while it is underutilized,” said industry analyst Jim Patterson. “However, it will be challenged with the same congestion issues as their peers as they grow their base.”
Then again, SpaceX says the service will improve as it builds out more infrastructure.
“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will all improve dramatically,” Kate Tice, a senior engineer at SpaceX, said in a livestream of a Starlink mission in November.
Starlink is gearing up for a big 2021, hiring software engineers, customer support managers, a director of sales, and a country launch manager.
The fan fervor that made Tesla cars such a hit with consumers and retail investors extends to Starlink. Facebook groups, Reddit threads and Twitter are filled with reports from early customers sharing images of their download speeds. You Tube has videos of people “unboxing” their Starlink dish and going through the initial set-up.
Ross Youngblood lives in Oregon and works remotely as an engineer for a tech company in San Jose. He owns a Tesla Model X and follows All Things Musk pretty closely. He got Starlink before Thanksgiving.
“I just plugged it all in and it started to work,” said Youngblood. “It’s going to be very disruptive, and I don’t think enough people are paying attention.”
Many other customers are waiting in the wings. In December, the Federal Communications Commission awarded SpaceX $885.5 million in subsidies as part of a wider effort to bring broadband to over 10 million Americans in rural areas. SpaceX will focus on 35 states, including Alabama, Idaho, Montana and Washington.
“We can’t continue to throw money at aging infrastructure,” said Russ Elliot, director of the Washington State Broadband Office. “With Starlink, you can be anywhere. The cost to build in deep rural or costly areas is now less of an issue with this technology as an option.”
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Elliot connected SpaceX with members of the Hoh Tribe in far western Washington. The Native American community had struggled for years to bring high-speed internet to their remote reservation, which spans about 1,000 acres and has 23 homes. Kids struggled to access remote learning, and internet connections were so slow that downloading homework could take all day.
“SpaceX came up and just catapulted us into the 21st century,” said Melvinjohn Ashue, a member of the Hoh Tribe, in a short video produced by the Washington State Department of Commerce. In a phone interview with the Economic Times of India, Ashue said that the first thing he did once he connected to Starlink was download a long movie: Jurassic Park. Now most of the reservation’s households have Starlink, making it possible for families to access not just online schooling but tele-health appointments and online meetings.
“Internet access is a utility. It’s no longer a luxury,” said Maria Lopez, the tribal vice chairwoman. Lopez said that Starlink was easy to hook up. The scariest part was climbing up a ladder to set up the dish on her roof. “Every now and then it will glitch,” she said. “But it quickly reboots itself,” Ms. Lopez added.
After nine years as the high-flyer of the Google X lab, Alphabet is ending Loon, which was one of the company’s high-profile, cutting-edge efforts. Loon aimed at providing Internet access to rural and remote areas, creating wireless networks with up to 1 Mbit/second speeds using high-altitude balloons at altitudes between 18 and 25 km (11 and 16 miles). As for so many of Google X labs “moonshots,” it was difficult to turn Loon into a business.
“The road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped. So we’ve made the difficult decision to close down Loon,” Astro Teller, who heads Google X, wrote in a blog post. Alphabet said it expected to wind down operations in “the coming months” with the hope of finding other positions for Loon employees at Alphabet.
Sadly, despite the team’s groundbreaking technical achievements over the last 9 years — doing many things previously thought impossible, like precisely navigating balloons in the stratosphere, creating a mesh network in the sky, or developing balloons that can withstand the harsh conditions of the stratosphere for more than a year — the road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped. So we’ve made the difficult decision to close down Loon. In the coming months, we’ll begin winding down operations and it will no longer be an Other Bet within Alphabet.
From the farmers in New Zealand who let us attach a balloon communications hub to their house in 2013, to our partners who made it possible to deliver essential connectivity to people following natural disasters in Puerto Rico and Peru, to our first commercial partners in Kenya, to the diverse organizations working tirelessly to find new ways to deliver connectivity from the stratosphere — thank you deeply. Loon wouldn’t have been possible without a community of innovators and risk-takers who are as passionate as we are about connecting the unconnected. And we hope we have reason to work together again before long.
The idea behind Loon was to bring cellular connectivity to remote parts of the world where building a traditional mobile network would be too difficult and too costly. Alphabet promoted the technology as a potentially promising way to bring internet connectivity to not just the “next billion” consumers but the “last billion.”
The giant helium balloons, made from sheets of polyethylene, are the size of tennis courts. They were powered by solar panels and navigated by flight control software that used artificial intelligence to drift efficiently in the stratosphere. While up in the air, they act as “floating cell towers,” transmitting internet signals to ground stations and personal devices.
Credit…Loon LLC, via Associated Press
Google started working on Loon in 2011 and launched the project with a public test in 2013. Loon became a stand-alone subsidiary in 2018, a few years after Google became a holding company called Alphabet. In April 2019, it accepted a $125 million investment from a SoftBank unit called HAPSMobile to advance the use of “high-altitude vehicles” to deliver internet connectivity.
Last year, Google announced the first commercial deployment of the Loon technology with Telkom Kenya to provide a 4G LTE network connection to a nearly 31,000-square-mile area across central and western Kenya, including the capital, Nairobi. Before then, the balloons had been used only in emergency situations, such as after Hurricane Maria knocked out Puerto Rico’s cellular network. In closing down this pilot service in Kenya, Loom said it would pledge $10 million to Kenyan non-profits and businesses offering “connectivity, internet, entrepreneurship, and education.”
Loon was starting to run out of money and had turned to Alphabet to keep its business solvent while it sought another investor in the project, according to a November report in The Information.
The decision to shut down Loon is another signal of Alphabet’s recent austerity toward its ambitious and costly technology projects. Under Ruth Porat, Alphabet’s chief financial officer since 2015, the company has kept a close watch over the finances of its so-called Other Bets, fledgling business ventures aimed at diversifying from its core advertising business.
Alphabet has aggressively pushed its “Other Moonshot Bets” like Waymo and Verily, a life sciences unit, to accept outside investors and branch out on their own. Projects that failed to secure outside investment or show enough financial promise have been discarded, such as Makani, a project to produce wind energy kites that Alphabet shut down last year.
That austerity has been a notable change from a time when units like X, which had been a favored vanity project of Google’s co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, had autonomy to spend freely to pursue ambitious technology projects even if the financial outlook remained unclear.
Facebook’s efforts have likewise stumbled, with Mark Zuckerberg’s company deciding in 2018 to ground Aquila, its gigantic, solar-powered drone designed to deliver Internet by laser. “Surprisingly, it’s just not practical,” drolly commented Techcrunch. Instead, it is efforts to beam the net from satellites that seem to be meeting with higher-flying fortunes.
Its launch of services in the rural UK this month is bad news for OneWeb – which only just emerged from bankruptcy in November with new owners, the UK Government and Bharti Global. Analysts, though, think neither will provide too much of a threat to established Internet providers in urban are
For all that was innovative about its technology, Loon never turned a profit, and the company was tight-lipped about precisely how many users it ever had. It was never a matter of providing free Internet to the masses, but instead, of amplifying the reach of existing telecoms companies to rural populations, via the balloon network. Once connected, clients paid for the Internet, just like anybody else. It just seems there were not enough of them who did.
Its technical advances concerned a type of ballet, using its software system to predict how weather events could move its balloons, then adapting the balloons’ height in accord with wind currents to manipulate their position. The balloons usually lasted a few hundred days, after which they were directed to a landing zone – though the landings weren’t always as accurate as its engineers would have hoped.
Four of Europe’s biggest network operators have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to express their individual commitment to the implementation and deployment of Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) as the technology of choice for future mobile networks across Europe. In a statement, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Vodafone pledged to back Open RAN systems that take advantage of new open virtualized architectures, software and hardware with a view to enhancing the flexibility, efficiency and security of European networks in the 5G era.
The four operators committed to working together with existing and new ecosystem partners, industry bodies like the O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), as well as European policy makers, to ensure Open RAN quickly reaches competitive parity with traditional RAN solutions. “This initiative is an important milestone towards a diverse, reinvigorated supplier ecosystem and the availability of carrier-grade Open RAN technology for a timely commercial deployment in Europe,” they said in a joint statement.
The MNOs added that the introduction of Open RAN, virtualisation and automation would pave the way for a fundamental change in the way operators manage networks and deliver services, allowing them to add or shift capacity more quickly for end users, automatically resolve network incidents or provide enterprise level services on-demand for industry 4.0.
The four operators also expressed the hope that the European Commission and national governments will agree to play an important role in fostering and developing the Open RAN ecosystem by funding early deployments, research and development, open test lab facilities as well as incentivising supply chain diversity by lowering barriers to entry for small suppliers and startups.
The MoU comes a few days after Telefonica announced plans to use open RAN technology at around 1,000 of its mobile sites in Germany. Vodafone made a similar commitment at around 2,600 of its masts and rooftops in the UK at the end of last year.
Without orders from numerous large operators, open RAN producers have struggled to increase volumes and generate the necessary economies of scale.
“This is like putting the band back together,” says Gabriel Brown, a principal analyst with Heavy Reading, a sister company to Light Reading. “The European operators are saying if we co-operate then we can have a meaningful influence and impact on the way open RAN develops.”
Operators are drawn to open RAN because it would allow them to mix and match vendors, using radio software from one vendor in tandem with general-purpose equipment developed by another. Traditional radio access networks typically force operators to buy all their components from the same supplier.
While today’s statement is light on details of firm commitments, Vodafone has already promised to use open RAN technology at around 2,600 of its mobile sites in the UK, while Telefónica this week said it would do the same at roughly 1,000 sites in Germany.
Deutsche Telekom, Germany’s telecom incumbent, has had less to say about rollout targets, although in December it revealed plans to build an “O-RAN town” in Neubrandenburg this year. “This will be a small-scale commercial deployment, which will encompass up to 150 cells, and will bring open RAN into a real 4G/5G network environment,” said a Deutsche Telekom spokesperson by email.
That leaves France’s Orange, which has now made a jaw-dropping commitment: Starting in 2025, it will buy only open RAN equipment when upgrading its European networks.
“From 2025, our intention is that all new equipment deployed by Orange in Europe should be based on open RAN,” says Arnaud Vamparys, Orange’s senior vice president of radio networks. “This is a good time to send a clear message.”
His expectation is that over this timeframe open RAN will reach “parity” with traditional RAN for deployment in a macro network. That would mean resolving some of the performance shortcomings that have mainly restricted open RAN to rural and less demanding conditions.
“2025 sounds about right,” says Brown. “The integrated systems are really setting a very high bar and open RAN is behind on features and performance right now.”
Brown told Light Reading he was encouraged by some of the recent open RAN activity in the semiconductor industry, citing baseband advances by Marvell and radio innovation by Xilinx. But he says it is too early to say open RAN will definitely be a mainstream success by the mid-2020s. “Can this be the best way to build a radio access network? If it isn’t, it is probably not going to succeed.”
“We continue to work to unlock the value of these European programs because clearly there are industry-leading initiatives of some of the manufacturing being brought back to Europe, especially on open RAN,” said Markus Haas, Telefónica Deutschland’s CEO, when asked during an analyst call this week if the telecom sector could be a beneficiary of Europe’s COVID-19 recovery fund.
“There is high interest so that the overall industry, the vendor landscape, might change or might be empowered by additional funds in order to progress and accelerate open RAN.”
While Ericsson and Nokia say they are now investing in open RAN technology, Vodafone looks determined to use alternative players for its 2,600-site rollout. Supplier diversification has topped the agenda for other service providers, as well.
“We want Europe to play a role in that evolution and it has to unite a bit to achieve this goal,” says Orange’s Vamparys. “There are lots of US and Japanese companies pushing strongly for the acceleration of open RAN. If we don’t communicate and help other companies, it could create an unbalanced situation.”
SOURCE: ORAN Alliance
Telefónica Deutschland named Altiostar, KMW, NEC and Supermicro as potential open RAN partners in a presentation it gave this week, while Deutsche Telekom has been in talks with Dell, Fujitsu, Mavenir, Nokia and NEC.
Vodafone has already carried out open RAN trials with Mavenir and Parallel Wireless.
The region’s biggest gap is probably in silicon, says Heavy Reading’s Brown. Most of the high-profile chipmakers developing open RAN technology, including Marvell and Xilinx, are based in the US.
Arm, a UK-based firm whose processor designs are used in many of the world’s smartphones, is a member of the O-RAN Alliance, the group responsible for open RAN specifications. But it is also currently the target of a $40 billion takeover move by Nvidia, a US semiconductor maker.
In the meantime, any plan to use part of the European recovery fund to support open RAN could meet with political resistance given the healthy state of the telecom sector compared with other industries, including airlines, hospitality, retail and tourism.
John Strand, the CEO of advisory firm Strand Consult, lashed out at the suggestion that open RAN could benefit from Europe’s COVID-19 stimulus package.
“Do these companies need subsidies? Is Telefónica in such a bad position that it needs public funding?” he told Light Reading. “We are living in a time when numbers of companies are in deep financial crisis because of COVID-19 and telecom operators, which definitely haven’t been hit, are asking for subsidies.”
Market forecasters now think open RAN will account for about one tenth of the overall market for radio access network products by the mid-2020s:
- Omdia expects industry revenues to increase from just $70 million in 2019 to about $3.2 billion in 2024, giving it a 9.4% share of the 4G and 5G market.
- Dell’Oro, another analyst firm, is in broad agreement: Last year, it predicted operators would spend somewhere north of $3 billion on open RAN products in 2024.
VIAVI Solutions Inc today announced that Mavenir, an upstart provider of end-to-end cloud-native network software for mobile operators, is collaborating with VIAVI for lab validation of radio access solutions in the U.S. VIAVI’s lab test platform, in use by almost every base station manufacturer in the world, provides scalable test systems for validating network performance as experienced by end users, across multiple cells and different radio access technologies.
The year 2020 marked a significant inflection point for mobile networks around the globe. With 229 million subscribers as of December 2020, 5G became the fastest growing mobile technology in history. New MNOs (like Dish Network) were granted licenses to establish greenfield networks to take advantage of this demand. Meanwhile, #1 base station maker Huawei was restricted from supplying infrastructure in markets around the globe. These trends have driven an expansion of the supply chain for mobile network solutions.
VIAVI tools are able to measure the complete performance of the network over multiple interfaces including O-RAN and RF through to the packet core. Capable of emulating one to many thousands of UEs, the platforms create a sophisticated and precise test environment, including comprehensive feature interactions, simulated RF and mobility, accurate replications of real-world user behavior profiles, together with mobility across the radio access network.
“Mavenir is proud to be a leading vendor to mobile operators around the globe, offering software-defined infrastructure that can adapt to evolving requirements for both brownfield and greenfield networks, large-scale to startup networks,” said Ramnik Kamo, EVP Quality, Systems and People, Mavenir. “VIAVI has been a highly collaborative partner with our two companies’ engineering teams working together to prove a new technology against very tight customer timescales.”
“As vendors across the industry develop open, cloud-native and disaggregated architectures, testing against user expectations of service quality will be critical to accelerate adoption at scale,” said Luiz Cesar Oliveira, Vice President, Americas, VIAVI. “We are excited to help Mavenir optimize their advanced radio access solutions based on our unique experience supporting over 200 service providers and virtually every network equipment manufacturer worldwide.”
VIAVI (NASDAQ: VIAV) is a global provider of network test, monitoring and assurance solutions for communications service providers, enterprises, network equipment manufacturers, government and avionics. We help these customers harness the power of instruments, automation, intelligence and virtualization to Command the network. VIAVI is also a leader in light management solutions for 3D sensing, anti-counterfeiting, consumer electronics, industrial, automotive, and defense applications. Learn more about VIAVI at www.viavisolutions.com. Follow us on VIAVI Perspectives, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
Deutsche Telekom said it is taking part in the Platform and Ecosystem for Quantum-Assisted Artificial Intelligence project to conduct research into quantum technologies, under the leadership of research and development unit T-Labs. Deutsche Telekom will carry out research activities and tests for potential use cases of quantum technologies, particularly for network operators. A consortium of 15 partners and 33 associated partners are taking part the research projects, funded by the German Federal Ministry of the Economy.
T-Labs will provide specific use cases from the field of telecommunications, including the optimization of communication networks, Industry 4.0 applications or AI-clustering problems for customer segments. Quantum algorithms can provides solutions to the complexity and size of applications. Quantum computers could be used for Deutsche Telekom’s operational business.
Quantum algorithms for telecommunication providers
Quantum computers promise an exponential increase in processing speed for selected problem classes. For example, in combinatorial optimization problems or the training of AI models (AI: artificial intelligence). In communication science, Shor’s algorithm is usually considered the “killer application” of quantum computing. This is because quantum computers can use it to attack today’s security infrastructures.
In the PlanQK project, T-Labs provides some specific use cases from the field of telecommunications. These include the optimization of communication networks, Industry 4.0 applications or AI-clustering problems for customer segments. These applications have a high level of complexity and, if the problem exceeds a critical size, can only be calculated classically with great difficulty. Here, quantum algorithms promise the solution. With growing size, quality and processing speed, quantum computers could find their way into Telekom’s operational business.
The path to a standardized quantum app store
However, the goal is not only to evaluate and demonstrate the applicability of current quantum technology for use at Telekom. The PlanQK project also seeks to prevent the risk of any one company achieving a dominant market position and setting de facto industry standards. This project is targeted at ensuring the development and establishment of a vendor-independent platform and associated ecosystem for quantum-assisted artificial intelligence. Users could then, for example, compile solutions for their company or commission them via the cloud or a quantum app store.
OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications company that’s emerged from bankruptcy is jointly owned by the UK Government and Bharti Global. The company today announced that it has secured additional funding from SoftBank Group Corp. (“SoftBank”) and Hughes Network Systems LLC (“Hughes”), bringing OneWeb’s total funding to $1.4 billion. The capital raised to date positions the Company to be fully funded for its first-generation satellite fleet, totaling 648 satellites, by the end of 2022.
Prior to the latest funding round, the UK government and Bharti Global held 42.2% stake, respectively in OneWeb with other partners holding the balance 15.6%. “The capital raised to date positions the company to be fully funded for its first-generation satellite fleet, totaling 648 satellites, by the end of 2022,” as per a statement released by OneWeb.
Currently, satellite internet is a great option for residents of rural or suburban areas. Along with basically unlimited availability, satellite internet also offers Wi-Fi connectivity and speeds fast enough for streaming services. In addition to OneWeb, Starlink/SpaceX, Kuiper/Amazon, Boeing and Telesat are investing heavily into LEO satellites, aiming to launch thousands of low-orbiting satellites in coming years.
OneWeb’s mission is to deliver broadband connectivity worldwide to bridge the global Digital Divide by offering everyone, everywhere access including to the Internet of Things (IoT) future and a pathway to 5G.
OneWeb’s LEO satellite system includes a network of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals for different customer markets capable of delivering affordable, fast, high-bandwidth and low-latency communications services. In December 2020, OneWeb launched 36 new satellites, built at its Airbus Joint Venture assembly plant in Florida, USA, bringing the Company’s total fleet to 110 satellites, all fully-functioning and benefitting from International Telecommunication Union spectrum priority.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, Executive Chairman of OneWeb, commented, “We are delighted to welcome the investment from SoftBank and Hughes. Both are deeply familiar with our business, share our vision for the future, and their commitment allows us to capitalise on the significant growth opportunity ahead for OneWeb. We gain from their experience and capabilities, as we deliver a unique LEO network for the world.”
Secretary of State, BEIS, The Rt. Hon. Kwasi Kwarteng, MP said: “Our investment in OneWeb is part of our continued commitment to the UK’s space sector, putting Britain at the forefront of the latest technological advances. Today’s investment brings the company one step closer to delivering its mission to provide global broadband connectivity for people, businesses and governments, while potentially unlocking new research, development and manufacturing opportunities in the UK.”
Masayoshi Son, Representative Director, Corporate Officer, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank, said, “We are excited to support OneWeb as it increases capacity and accelerates towards commercialisation. We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Bharti, the UK Government and Hughes to help OneWeb deliver on its mission to transform internet access around the world.”
Pradman Kaul, President of Hughes, remarked, “OneWeb continues to inspire the industry and attract the best players in the business to come together to bring its LEO constellation to fruition. The investments made today by Hughes and SoftBank will help realise the full potential of OneWeb in connecting enterprise, government and mobility customers, especially with multi-transport services that complement our own geostationary offerings in meeting and accelerating demand for broadband around the world.”
Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb, added “OneWeb’s mission is to connect everyone, everywhere. We have made rapid progress to re-start the business since emerging from Chapter 11 in November. We welcome the investments by SoftBank and Hughes as further proof of progress towards delivering our goal.”
In connection with the investment, SoftBank will gain a seat on the OneWeb Board of Directors. Hughes is an investor through its parent company EchoStar, and also an ecosystem partner, developing essential ground network technology for the OneWeb system.
Additionally, OneWeb has reduced its request for US market access from 47,884 to 6,372 satellites. Together with the satellites for which it is already licensed by the FCC, the total constellation size will be roughly 7,000, down from the 48,000 or so proposed last year.
According to the company, this solidification of their constellation demonstrates the commitment and vision of OneWeb’s new owners, the UK Government and Bharti Global, who are dedicated to deploying a cost effective, responsible, and groundbreaking satellite network to deliver global broadband.
The firm stated that OneWeb remains focused on launching its first-generation system of 648 satellites and is on track to start regional commercial services within a year. This streamlining of activities highlights OneWeb’s plan for global connectivity services and for future generations and possibilities for the network.
OneWeb is a global communications network powered from space, headquartered in London, enabling connectivity for governments, businesses, and communities. It is implementing a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites with a network of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals to provide an affordable, fast, high-bandwidth and low-latency communications service, connected to the IoT future and a pathway to 5G for everyone, everywhere. Find out more at http://www.oneweb.world
Google Cloud, Nokia partner to accelerate cloud-native 5G readiness for communication service providers:
- Google Cloud and Nokia will jointly develop cloud-native 5G core solutions for communication service providers and enterprise customers
- New partnership will deliver cloud capabilities to the network edge to accelerate enterprise digital transformation
Google Cloud and Nokia today announced a global, strategic partnership to bring new solutions for communications service providers (CSPs) that modernize their network infrastructures, build on a cloud-native 5G Core, and develop the network edge as a business services platform for enterprises.
The agreement, which comes three months after Nokia said it will move its on-premises IT infrastructure to Google Cloud, blends multiple technology platforms and services into a more comprehensive and integrated offering, according to the companies.
Google Cloud and Nokia will work closely to validate, optimize and evolve cloud-native network functions, and the two companies will also co-innovate new solutions that will help CSPs deliver 5G connectivity and services at scale.
Today, global CSPs can unlock new monetization opportunities by driving 5G connectivity and advanced services to enterprise customers at the network edge, to deliver new, digital experiences for consumers. Google Cloud and Nokia will create solutions that bring together Nokia’s 5G operations services and networking capabilities with Google Cloud’s leading technologies in AI, ML and analytics, running on Anthos as a platform for shifting workloads to the network edge, across public and private clouds.
As part of this collaboration, Nokia is supplying its voice core, cloud packet core, network exposure function, data management, signaling, and 5G core. This includes Nokia’s IMPACT IoT Connected Device Platform, which enables automated, zero-touch activation and allows for remote management of IoT devices, as well as Nokia’s Converged Charging solution provides real-time rating and charging capabilities that enable CSPs to capture new revenue opportunities from the 5G economy.
Google Cloud’s Anthos for Telecom will serve as the platform for deploying applications, enabling CSPs to build an ecosystem of services that are deployable anywhere, from the edge of the network, to public clouds, private clouds and carrier networks. Anthos is an open hybrid and multi-cloud application platform that offers telecommunications companies the flexibility to modernize existing applications, build new ones and securely run them on-premises and across multiple clouds.
By delivering cloud-native applications at the edge, businesses can benefit from lower latency and reduce the need for costly, on-site infrastructure, enabling them to transform their businesses in industries such as smart retail, connected manufacturing and digital consumer experiences.
In general, Google Cloud is focusing on three strategic areas to support telecommunications companies:
- Helping telecommunications companies monetize 5G as a business services platform.
- Empowering them to better engage their customers through data-driven experiences.
- Assisting them in improving operational efficiencies across core telecom systems.
In December, Google Cloud announced an ecosystem of over 30 partners that will serve more than 200 partner applications at the edge. Google Cloud has more than 2,000 locations globally where it can help service providers monetize their infrastructures.
Adding Nokia as another partner will help Google Cloud modernize telcos’ infrastructures by tapping into 5G connectivity as well as cloud-native applications and capabilities from the 5G network core to the edge.
Note yet again, there are no standards for 5G Core, let alone a cloud-native version. In the References below, we list 5G cloud-native core white papers from Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung.
“Through our partnership we can give customers choice and simplicity in interfacing with Google Cloud and Nokia systems. In many cases, we can provide pre-integrated solutions from Google Cloud and Nokia, which may offer a time-to-market advantage and a more seamless path to 5G for communications service providers,” a Google Cloud spokesperson wrote in response to questions. “At a high level, our approach to supporting the telecommunications industry will span multiple partnerships, geographies, and technology layers,” the Google Cloud spokesperson said.
George Nazi, VP, Telco, Media & Entertainment Industry Solutions at Google Cloud, said: “Communications service providers have a tremendous opportunity ahead of them to support businesses’ digital transformations at the network edge through both 5G connectivity and cloud-native applications and capabilities. Doing so requires modernized infrastructure, built for a cloud-native 5G core, and we’re proud to partner with Nokia to help the telecommunications industry expand and support these customers.”
Alex Choi, SVP, Strategy and Technology Innovation at Deutsche Telekom, said: “Deutsche Telekom is on a journey to transform to a new open, disaggregated and cloud-native infrastructure with an automated production model. We are therefore excited to see two innovative organizations like Nokia and Google Cloud joining forces to accelerate ecosystem innovation across critical areas like Open RAN and virtual RAN and the cloud-native 5G Core.”
Neil McRae, Chief Architect at BT Group, said: “BT is deploying cloud-native technologies across our platform, creating value for our customers and ensuring they get the best network experience in every aspect of their daily lives, whether at home, on the move or at work. The network and the services that our customers depend upon in their everyday lives can be further enhanced in terms of scalability, reliability, and experience with cloud-native technologies. BT is excited that Google and Nokia are innovating together to help accelerate new, on-demand edge and convergence solutions, creating new possibilities for consumers and enterprises.”
Ron Haberman, CTO of Cloud and Network Services at Nokia, said: “In the past five years, the telecom industry has evolved from physical appliances to virtual network functions and now cloud-native solutions. Nokia is excited to work with Google Cloud in service of our customers, both CSPs and enterprise, to provide choice and freedom to run workloads on premise and in the public cloud. Cloud-native network functions and automation will enable new agility and use-cases in the 5G era.”
The 5G telecom ecosystem will shift to become more enterprise driven from consumer-focused in 2021 and the fundamental architecture become software-defined, said John Roese, global chief technology officer, Dell Technologies.
“In 2021, we will have true standalone 5G materialize and it will include advanced features. (This author strongly disagrees as there are no standards for 5G SA and there will be no roaming or portability as a result.).
Enterprise use cases will dominate the technical landscape of 5G for both public and private deployment models. (We agree on that point). The fundamental architecture of 5G (core network) will move away from the telco and shift to a cloud (native) and IT architecture, which will be open and software-defined for the first time,” said Roese recently while briefing the journalists on the technology trends this year. The Dell senior executive said 5G infrastructure ‘needs to be developed in a very different way with software defined architecture.’
Roese said in 2021 and 2022 the industry would see the shift to building edge computing platforms that can run multiple edge experiences and software-defined services on them to solve the edge proliferation problem. “Edge platforms will become major new areas of on-premise IT capacity delivered as both product and as-a-service,” he added.
Dell said 2021 will also be a prominent year for the quantum computing and semiconductor ecosystem. “This is the year that will enable broader software development ecosystems to experiment with quantum computing. This is the first year that a computer scientist with no prior access to quantum computing can go into a simulator and start to learn the language of quantum,” said Roese.
According to the company, the industry will move from the era of homogeneous compute to an era of heterogeneous compute. This means that homogenous compute like x86 will be highly augmented with domain specific architectures (Accelerators), and semiconductor ecosystems are being reorganized for this domain.
European Union (EU) internal market commissioner Thierry Breton made several important comments at the European Space Conference (ESA) yesterday. Breton outlined plans to “develop rapidly” a new space-based connectivity initiative. In particular, the EU has secured an important budget – €13.2bn – the largest budget ever – for Space. They’ve also agreed on the new EU space program, the first of its kind for Europe.
“My objective is to go fast,” he said. “Therefore, it would be appropriate that the commission puts forward this year a proposal to the European parliament and the council so we can move concretely.”
The satellite constellation design will be “multi-orbital,” combining LEO and GEO satellites. “It will also complement our existing infrastructures, creating synergies,” added Breton. He thinks the new satellite infrastructure will enhance the Galileo signal, and boost performance of Copernicus, another European satellite system focused on Earth observation.
There are four pillars of the EU’s strategy for space/satellite based connectivity:
- Consolidating Galileo & Copernicus
The launch of the second generation of Galileo satellites [1.] will commence with a first launch in 2024.
Note 1. Galileo is the EU’s Global Satellite Navigation System (GNSS). Sometimes called the ’European GPS‘, Galileo provides accurate positioning and timing information. Galileo is a programme under civilian control and its data can be used for a broad range of applications. It is autonomous but also interoperable with existing satellite navigation systems. At the moment, the Galileo constellation consists of 26 satellites.
New missions for Copernicus are coming. The ESA has awarded 6 new precursor missions, all of which have huge potential, such as the CO2 monitoring mission or the polar observation mission. Copernicus will need to adapt to the new competition in the dynamic field of earth observation.
2. Connectivity: secure digital connections for the future
Europe needs to develop rapidly an space based connectivity initiative as a third infrastructure besides Galileo & Copernicus. That infrastructure will:
- put an end to dead zones, giving access to high speed broadband to everyone;
- become autonomous and avoid dependence on the non-EU initiatives under development, like we did with Galileo;
- project Europe into the quantum era, ensuring quantum encrypted communication;
- keep the continent connected whatever happens, including massive attacks on the internet, which are no fiction anymore, especially with the emergence of the quantum computing capacities.
“My objective is to go fast. And therefore it would be appropriate that the Commission puts forward this year a proposal to the European Parliament and the Council so we can move concretely. To be ready, we launched a few weeks ago a study on a secure space-based connectivity system. The selected consortium consisting of European satellite manufacturers, operators and service providers, telco operators and launch service providers will study the possible design & development of this project.”
3. Strategic autonomy in launchers and Space Traffic Management (STM)
The EU budget will be used to support the European launcher industry in the full chain: from earliest research on new propulsion technologies to long-term contracts for the launches of our EU satellites.
“I will therefore gather in the next months all the actors to initiate a European Launcher alliance so to be able to jointly define, with ESA, the Member States, the European Parliament, the industry, a common roadmap for the next generation of launchers and technologies relevant to ensure an autonomous access to space.”
The other element of Europe’s strategic autonomy is how we operate in space thanks to a Space Traffic Management system.
“An increasingly congested space is threatening the viability and security of space infrastructures and operations. A million pieces of debris are in orbit around the earth – and the number is constantly increasing! It is expected that in the next years to come, more than 30 000 additional satellites will be launched. This is why we already have the Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) framework. But we need to go further by developing a robust EU STM policy and related capabilities – starting actively in 2021.”
4. Europe as space entrepreneurship Hub
As a last element of the space strategy for 2021, Tierry wants to position Europe as THE hub of space entrepreneurship in the world.
“I see the future of the European space industry as a combination of strong institutional leadership and European approach to New Space, one that is not a mere copy past of the US. Now is the time to seek alternative business models and funding schemes. I will therefore launch this year a new Space entrepreneurship initiative: CASSINI.
CASSINI will put in place – together with the EIB/EIF – a €1bn European Space Fund to boost start-ups and space innovation. It will cover actions on the whole innovation cycle, from business idea to industrialization, building on the €100m Space Equity Pilot we launched last year. With CASSINI, we want to stimulate more VC funds to actively invest in space companies in Europe; but also to get other industries to invest into space technologies and solutions. We want also to organize a true European space incubator, relying on the strengths of all the actors but putting them into a coherent and integrated network.”
The EC recently launched a study on what a secure space-based connectivity system might look like. A selected consortium, comprising European satellite manufacturers, operators and service providers – along with telcos and launch service providers – are tasked with studying the possible design and development of the project. “This will provide insights on the technical dimension, but also the governance structure, the financing, the missions, the exact scope. I expect their first feedback in April this year.”
In conclusion, Breton said, “2021 will be a defining year for our space strategy and for the position of Europe on the global space stage. We have enormous challenges to face, with serious risk of losing ground. We need to be able to find the resources to reinvent ourselves, to break taboos and the established cooperation.”
“And for this, I wish to work closely with all of you: Member States, Parliament, industry. And of course with the ESA – who will have a central role in this endeavor.”
EU’s Satellite Internet Competition:
Breton’s desire to move fast is no doubt motivated by the progress on two other sat communications initiatives, Starlink and OneWeb. Part of Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, Starlink has already started to offer beta broadband connections in northern Europe. OneWeb, owned by the UK government and Indian conglomerate Bharti Global, hopes to have an initial offering in the same region later this year.
The Centre for Quantum Technologies at Moscow State University has deployed a secure quantum telephony network, reports Cnews.ru. The network will interconnect 20 quantum telephony users. The maximum distance between users is 50 km. The network will be based on the Vipnet Quantum Security System (Vipnet QSS) quantum encrypting system. The project was started in December 2020 and should be completed by the end of 2021.
During the implementation of the program, a secure segment of the quantum network will be created between several subscribers located on the territory of the Moscow State University campus on Lenin Hills. The network points of presence will be installed at the Department of Physics, in the Main Building and in the Center for Quantum Technologies (about 20 subscriber points in total). In 2021, the network will be integrated with the network of Infotecs and by the end of this year the quantum protected network will be fully put into trial operation.
“Before quantum encryption becomes a familiar part of secure business communications, it is necessary to thoroughly test all possible options for the operation of such systems. The project that we started complements and develops the experiments and developments in the field of quantum communications over fiber-optic networks that we and other companies working in this field previously carried out, “said Professor Sergei Kulik, scientific director of the Center for Quantum Technologies at Moscow State University.
The quantum network will be built on the ViPNet Quantum Security System ( ViPNet QSS ), a quantum cryptographic system for generating and distributing keys (KKS VRK ), developed by InfoTeKS in collaboration with the Center for Quantum Technologies of Lomonosov Moscow State University. The system operates in a star topology and is designed to distribute encryption keys between trusted zones. In the course of the project, several tasks will be solved simultaneously: this quantum network will be multi-node, it will work in urban conditions, a secure channel will connect the networks of different organizations.
To ensure the safe transfer of information between protected zones, ViPNet QSS Point clients are installed in each zone, which are connected via a quantum channel through a hierarchical system of ViPNet QSS Switch optical switches to the ViPNet QSS Server. Thus, the trusted zones are combined for secure communication. The ViPNet QSS system delivers encryption keys to all devices that encrypt user information.
The confidentiality of negotiations through this system is based on strong symmetric encryption of network traffic between subscribers using the quantum key distribution protocol. In turn, the robustness of this protocol is based on the fundamental principle of quantum physics – the impossibility of measuring a photon without changing its state. This means that if an attacker tries to intercept photons, from which a quantum key should subsequently be formed, their initially prepared states will change. The protocol will detect these changes and will not use such photons to generate a secret quantum key.
One of the advantages of a “quantum” phone is the ability to encrypt voice traffic and text messages of users on keys unknown even to the network administrator.
“Our cooperation with colleagues from Moscow State University began 4 years ago. During this time, we have created several cryptographic systems operating in different topologies. It is pleasant to note that our joint developments also find practical application, – commented Dmitry Gusev, Deputy General Director of InfoTeKS. “I think that the trial operation of ViPNet QSS will allow us and colleagues from the Center for Quantum Technologies to better understand the real needs of customers interested in quantum technologies.”
One of advantages of “quantum” phone is an opportunity to cipher voice traffic and text messages of users on the keys unknown even to the network administrator.
On May 28, 2019, InfoTeKS and the NTI Competence Center – Center for Quantum Technologies of the Physics Department, Moscow State University demonstrated the work of a pre-production sample of the first “quantum” phone in Russia, ViPNet QSS Phone, which is part of the ViPNet Quantum Security System (ViPNet QSS).
A session of voice communication was carried out between the Center of Quat Technologies and the Infotecs office, protected on quantum keys and using an optical line provided by YL-com.
Quantum telephone is a joint development of the NTI Competence Center, created on the basis of the M.V. Lomonosov and Infotecs, a partner of the university in the quantum Consortium. Work on the product began in 2016 with a decision to support a local project within the MSU Development Program.
The confidentiality of negotiations on a “quantum” phone is based on strong symmetric encryption of network traffic between subscribers using the quantum key distribution protocol for the distribution of keys. In turn, the stability of this protocol is based on the fundamental principle of quantum physics that it is impossible to measure a photon without changing its state. This means that if an attacker tries to intercept photons, from which a quantum key should subsequently be formed, their initially prepared states will change. The protocol will detect these changes and will not use such photons to generate a secret quantum key.