Telecom Italia to be first Open RAN network operator in Italy

Telecom Italia (TIM) is among the first operators in Europe and the only one in Italy to launch the Open RAN deployment program to innovate 4G and 5G radio access networks.

The initiative is covered by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last February with the main European operators to promote Open RAN technology with the aim of speeding up the implementation of new generation mobile networks, in particular 5G, Cloud and Edge Computing.

TIM said it signed up to the MoU to commit to the development of innovative mobile network systems that use open virtualized architecture to facilitate increasingly agile, flexible, secure and functional 5G services.

The first city in Italy to adopt this open network model is Faenza.  Through collaboration with JMA Wireless – a leader in mobile coverage and the development of Open RAN software – TIM will use a solution that decouples or disaggregates the components (hardware and software) of the radio access network.

The radio node on the 4G network has been built by combining JMA’s software baseband with the radio units provided by Microelectronics Technology (MTI). Going forward, this venture will also extend to 5G solutions.

The deployment of Open RAN solutions in an open environment, in line with the objectives of TIM’s 2021-2023 ‘Beyond Connectivity’ plan, will unite the potential of the cloud and Artificial Intelligence with the evolution of the mobile network. Moreover, it will enable operators to further strengthen security standards, improve network performances and optimize costs in order to provide ever more advanced digital services such as those linked to the new solutions for Industry 4.0, the smart city and autonomous driving.

TIM is a member of the European Open RAN alliance launched earlier this year by Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica and Vodafone to work together on developing and implementing open RANs for mobile.  TIM said that the initiative will provide strong impetus to the introduction of the broadband mobile network’s new functionalities, in particular the 5G ones, promoting an increasingly widespread deployment and improving its management.

That consortium may be in competition with the 5G Open RAN Ecosystem, which includes the following companies: Dell Technologies Japan, Fujitsu, Intel, Mavenir, NEC, NTT Data, Nvidia, Qualcomm Technologies, Red Hat, VMware, Wind River and Xilinx.

Of course there is also the O-RAN Alliance and the TIP Open RAN project group.  Yet no standards body (like ITU, ETSI, IEEE, etc) is involved and neither is 3GPP which is the main spec writing body for cellular networks.

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References:

https://www.gruppotim.it/en/press-archive/corporate/2021/CS-TIM-ORAN-Faenza-26-aprile2021-EN.html

Analysis: Telefonica, Vodafone, Orange, DT commit to Open RAN

Another Open RAN Consortium: 5G Open RAN Ecosystem led by NTT Docomo

https://www.gruppotim.it/en/press-archive/corporate/2021/PR-TIM-ORAN-en.html

 

Ericsson claims to be 5G market leader with strong revenues coming in 2022

On Ericsson’s 1st quarter 2021 earnings call this past week, CEO Börje Ekholm said that while Ericsson is focused on growing its core business of networks and digital and managed services, it’s also putting energy into building an enterprise business. The Swedish based company is “seeing a very strong development, strong demand for 5G and enterprise applications.”

The CEO believes that the 5G market cycle will be both longer and bigger due to entering a complete new application area with enterprise applications. What’s encouraging is the progress Ericsson is making on their product portfolio. In Q1-2021, the company announced the ultra-lightweight, high-performance Massive MIMO radio portfolio.

“We have continued to consolidate our position as market leader in 5G with 136 commercial contracts and 85 live networks in 42 countries. What’s also encouraging is that organically, FX-adjusted, we saw sales grew 10% during the first quarter. And if we actually add — or adjust for the IPR revenues, organic growth was 14% in our business. So that is really driven by a strong growth in networks that, again, if you would adjust for IPR, actually grew 19% in the quarter, which is fairly significant growth.

If we look at the market areas, we saw good growth in four out of five market areas. Northeast Asia, we grew by 80%, which is really driven by the non-Chinese markets, primarily. If we look at — the next one is Southeast Asia, Oceania, and India, where we saw good growth, driven by 5G in Australia, as well as 4G rollout in India, of a little touch more than 20%. Moving on to Europe, where we had good growth, 15% in Europe.But that was partly offset by more flattish development in Latin America. And, of course, Latin America suffers from the pandemic and the macroeconomic effects following the tough situation with the COVID-19. If we then look – MANA had a strong development based on continued rollout of 5G. And there, we see, actually, good progress also on our cloud-native portfolio in digital services.So we had a growth of 10% — more than 10% organically. And we’ve been able to also strengthen our market position, which is, long term, going to be very attractive for us. We also saw the completion of the C-band auction, so we expect that to result in deployments during the second half of the year. And if we look then at our last market area, Middle East and Africa, we saw sales falling by 16%.That is really an effect of the pandemic in Africa impacting the macroeconomic and the spend environment, but we’re also seeing a slowdown in Middle East following the large investments last year. So one of the cornerstones of our strategy has been to grow gross margin, and it’s a fundamental indicator of success or progress on the focus strategy. So it is encouraging that we continue to see our gross margin strengthen in the business, and we are able to see that strengthening despite lower IPR revenue. As a matter of fact, we fully compensate for the lower IPR revenue in the gross margin development.”

Ekholm also said that Ericsson is strengthening its position with Cloud RAN and has made their  supply chain resilient.  They continue to develop the Managed Services business growing gross margins by 20.6% in the quarter.  Ericsson’s cloud-native portfolio (5G stand alone based core network) strengthened and will be an increasing part of revenues in the near future.

In the enterprise market, Ericsson is starting to see good progress on its 5G IoT offering, but we’re also seeing that Cradlepoint becomes integrated into our business and seeing the growth opportunities now materializing in the numbers from Cradlepoint.

Ekholm said that the expects to see the U.S. C Band auction result in deployments during the second half of this year. Verizon, in particular, has indicated that it wants to have 7,000 to 8,000 C Band sites ready to go when the spectrum is cleared in late 2021.

Ekholm also briefly addressed Ericsson’s supply chain. AT&T CEO John Stankey raised the potential for C Band equipment supply chain issues this week during AT&T’s quarterly call with investors. Asked about the carrier’s plans for C Band deployment, Stankey said that global supply chains are “stretched” and as a result, he is “a little skittish,” adding that the company is “seeing dynamics that are occurring in the global supply chain where unexpected things are popping up, and it is possible that we could see certain element shortages that start to crop up as everybody’s racing to put stuff up on towers.”

The CEO categorized 2021 as an investment year for Ericsson, particularly in its Digital Services segment, and that the company is incurring costs ahead of revenues — some of which might come as soon as the fourth quarter, but “we’re really going to see revenues coming in 2022,” he said.

References:

https://www.fool.com/earnings/call-transcripts/2021/04/21/telefonaktiebolaget-lm-ericsson-eric-q1-2021-earni/

https://www.ericsson.com/4904ed/assets/local/investors/documents/financial-reports-and-filings/interim-reports-archive/2021/3month21-ceo-slides.pdf

Ericsson: Enterprise focus will mean a ‘bigger and longer’ 5G cycle

 

Telstra wins most lots in Australia’s 5G mmWave auction

Five companies have won spectrum in the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) latest spectrum auction in the 26 GHz band. The 26 GHz band has been identified as optimal for the delivery of  5G wireless broadband services.

Of the 360 lots available in the auction, 358 were sold, realizing a total revenue of Australian $647,642,100, equivalent to almost $0.0127/MHz/POP.  The new licensees will have rights to the spectrum for 15 years, starting from later in 2021 through 2036.

Dense Air Australia Pty Ltd won 2 lots for $28,689,900, Mobile JV Pty Limited won 86 lots for $108,186,700, Optus Mobile Pty Ltd won 116 lots for $226,203,100, Pentanet Limited won 4 lots for $7,986,200, and Telstra Corporation Limited won 150 lots for $276,576,200.

Further apparatus licenses in the 26GHz band will be issued next month by ACMA.

“This outcome represents another significant milestone for 5G in Australia. The successful allocation of this spectrum will support high-speed communications services in metropolitan cities and major regional centers throughout Australia,” said ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin.

“This auction is one among a suite of licensing approaches that the ACMA has introduced in the 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands to encourage a wide range of innovative communications uses,” said Ms O’Loughlin.

Optus said it had secured “the most highly valued position at the top of the spectrum band” and foreshadowed new services such as AR/VR video, next-generation cloud gaming and massive simultaneous usage, as well as enterprise use cases such as automation and private networking.

In a blog post, Telstra CEO Andy Penn expressed similar expectations.  Penn said the new spectrum capacity was more than ten-times Telstra’s existing 5G spectrum holdings and would be deployed to increase capacity in high-traffic locations such as shopping centers, inner-city train stations and sporting stadiums.  Telstra’s mobile networks was increasing by an average of 40% annually.

Telstra is leading in 5G Australia deployments with its 3.6GHz spectrum network expected to reach 75% of the population by the end of June.

References:

https://www.acma.gov.au/articles/2021-04/outcome-millimetre-wave-spectrum-auction

https://www.lightreading.com/asia/australian-operators-pay-a$648m-for-mmwave-spectrum/d/d-id/768991?

AT&T reports strong wireless growth in 1Q 2021; C Band ? Fiber footprint increases

AT&T reported strong wireless subscriber growth today. The company recorded $19.0 billion in mobility revenue, up 9.4% from a year earlier. While service revenue grew just 0.6%, with subscriber gains largely offset by continued pressure on international roaming amid the pandemic, AT&T’s equipment revenue rose 45.2% as AT&T benefited from a greater mix of higher priced smartphones. The latest results also benefitted from comparisons to those from a year-ago period that saw temporary store closures due to the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

The telecom/media recorded to 595,000 postpaid phone net additions for the quarter and a postpaid phone churn rate of 0.76%, which was down from 0.86% a year prior. Of the major wireless companies in the U.S., AT&T has been the most focused since the latest iPhone launch on offering promotions meant to drive upgrades from existing customers, rather than mostly targeting customers who would be switching from another carrier.

Impressively, AT&T added 235,000 AT&T Fiber customers in the 1st quarter of 2021, up from 209,000 in the year-ago period. Fiber penetration rose to 35% from 30% in Q1 2020.

During an earnings call, AT&T CEO John Stankey said the company added a total of more than 1 million fiber subscribers over the last four quarters, and was on track to build out fiber to 3 million consumer and business customer locations in 2021. He previously said AT&T was aiming to roll out fiber to 2 million new residential customers this year.

Reflecting on its progress thus far, Stankey said, “I like what I see in terms of our market position. If you look at things like lives, churn, customer satisfaction and net promoter scores and the actual performance of the product, they’re all great…I’ve not seen share movement on typical products like this as rapidly as we’re able to get share movement once we deploy an area.”

“We continued to excel in growing customer relationships in our market focus areas of mobility, fiber, and HBO Max,” said CEO John Stankey. “We had another strong quarter of postpaid phone net adds, higher gross adds, lower churn, and good growth in Mobility EBITDA.” AT&T posted 2.7 million total domestic HBO Max and HBO subscriber net adds, bringing total domestic subscribers to 44.2 million.

AT&T said it expects to spend $6 to $8 billion between 2022 and 2024 to deliver 5G services over its own midband C-band spectrum licenses. The company expects to cover up to 100 million people in “early” 2023, but that target generally trails the buildout plans of Verizon and T-Mobile.

“Global supply chains are stressed right now across the board. You ask the question, can you do the work? And people will give you comfortable answers,” Stankey said in response to questions about plans for C-band, timing and increased capex on AT&T’s first quarter earnings call.

“But I’m a little skittish,” Stankey acknowledged. “We’re seeing dynamics that are occurring in the global supply chain where unexpected things are popping up. And is it possible we could see certain element shortages that start to crop up as everybody’s racing to put stuff up on towers? It may.”

Stankey said that’s part of why he’s cautious about increasing guidance or making changes to C-band plans until there is a little momentum happening.

Likely as a result, Stankey expressed interest in purchasing additional midband spectrum licenses later this year during the FCC’s 3.45-3.55GHz spectrum auction. “I believe there could be an opportunity there,” he said.

Business Wireline, which accounts for 14% of AT&T’s consolidated revenues, saw weak results.  This has historically been a highly cyclical business. Total Business Wireline revenue was $6.0B, down 3.5% YoY, a bit better than last quarter’s 4.1% decline. That result was considerably weaker than the expectation of a 3.5% decline.

As with peers, AT&T’s Business Wireline business has held up better than we would have expected during the COVID recession. Verizon noted last quarter that their own Business Wireline segment has been boosted by explosive growth in Public Sector revenues, driven in large measure by schools adjusting to the demands of remote learning, and they indicated that they expected some mean reversion. Perhaps, the CARES Act, which provides a huge amount of subsidy for schools and local governments, will soften (or even reverse) that blow.

AT&T Communications CEO Jeff McElfresh said that AT&T is “supportive” of President Joe Biden proposed infrastructure plan, which sets out to bring high-speed broadband to rural America, and that the company is “encouraging the government to do this in a smart way.” He argued that efforts to expand broadband access are “generally more impressive when you have scale backing the implementation” and that private-public partnerships, as well as collaboration within the telecommunications industry, can help drive success.

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Analyst Comments:

“AT&T appears to be ceding the field in wireless with a network plan that doesn’t even attempt to close the gap with T-Mobile and Verizon,” wrote the financial analysts at New Street Research in a note to clients released shortly after AT&T disclosed its first quarter financial results.  “As with results today, for a little longer AT&T may be able to stem the tide of losses through continued aggressive promotions and retention offers, but this can only go so long given other costly priorities (a massive investment in HBO, a doubling of the fiber footprint) amidst generally constrained resources. Moreover, if they allow the network gap to widen too far, they may not be able to keep subs at any price (as was the case with Sprint in later years).”

“AT&T is investing in mobile and HBO Max, as it promised, and at great cost,” wrote the financial analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in a note to investors. “The problem is, there are not enough investment dollars to go around. We believe the share price fairly reflects the highly uncertain outlook, and we are watching … as the competitive environment evolves.”

Craig Moffett of MoffetNatanson wrote: “The broadband business requires big capital investments up front for gradual and steady returns later… but the payback period even for good investments is as much as ten years…. The C-Band auction was just the beginning. Verizon has already committed to an additional $10B of capex over the next three years, and Verizon was, by all accounts, far ahead of AT&T already in small cell densification. And what of their costly handset giveaways? Can they be sustained?”

“The problem, as ever, is s AT&T’s debt load. To maintain any pretense that they will be able to pay down debt and service their $15B per year dividend, they need to sustain free cash flow at current levels, or grow it even. But service revenue is still declining, and, despite solid cost controls in Q1, EBITDA is still declining as well (down 4.7% YoY).”

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References:

https://investors.att.com/~/media/Files/A/ATT-IR/financial-reports/quarterly-earnings/2021/Q121/ATT1Q21EarningsRelease.pdf

https://investors.att.com/~/media/Files/A/ATT-IR/financial-reports/quarterly-earnings/2021/Q121/1Q21_Highlights.pdf

https://www.lightreading.com/ossbsscx/atandt-surprises-in-q2-but-wireless-outlook-remains-murky/d/d-id/768969?

 

 

China Mobile reports 9.5% increase in sales; depreciation and electricity expenses will increase at relatively high rates

China Mobile is the world’s largest wireless network operator by customers, serving 940 million total subscribers in the Q1 2021.    The #1 China carrier had 189 million 5G customers a March, an increase of 24 million since December.  Its 4G-LTE use base also grew during Q1 2021, up 36 million year-on-year to 788 million.

China Mobile reported a 9.5% year-on-year increase in sales, to 198.4 billion Chinese yuan ($30.6 billion), for its first quarter of 2021. China Mobile’s net profit increased by 2.3% to about RMB24.1 billion ($3.7 billion).

The company states that continued to devote concerted efforts to promoting digitalized and intelligent transformation and achieving high-quality development. Placing a special focus on its “4×3” strategic core and fully implementing the “5G+” plan, it managed to maintain stable growth in key business performance indicators and delivered sound development momentum, taking solid steps towards becoming a world-class enterprise by building a dynamic “Powerhouse.”

China Mobile Chairman Yang Jie said following its large-scale 5G network deployment, it expects corresponding depreciation and electricity expenses to increase at relatively high rates.

Following the large scale operation of 5G, the China Mobile Group expects the corresponding depreciation and electricity expenses will increase at relatively high rates. As the Group scales up the development of DICT and other information services, the demand for resources to address the need for business transformation and upgrade will remain robust.

Facing these challenges and pressure, the Group will continue to explore new sources to increase revenue, and at the same time take measures to lower costs and enhance efficiency. It will also precisely allocate resources by adhering to the principle of ensuring a sufficient budget for areas essential to promote growth, while reducing and controlling expenses on certain selected areas.

While fostering business transformation, promoting innovation and nurturing new areas of growth, the Group will strive to achieve stable and healthy growth in telecommunications services revenue and net profit, maintain good profitability and continuously create value for investors.

China Mobile said it was under pressure to make other cutbacks to cope with the increase in electricity fees and depreciation charges in 2020.

China Mobile’s The revenue growth was mainly due to a 67 per cent increase in handset sales to CNY20.8 billion, which the operator credited to a wider range of 5G models at more affordable prices. Telecoms service turnover increased 5.2 per cent to CNY177.7 billion.

Total subscribers fell by 6 million to 940 million. ARPU edged up 1.1 per cent to CNY47.40, while average monthly data usage increased 34.9 per cent to 11.2GB.  The volume of total voice minutes increased 8.3 per cent and SMS usage dropped 12.6 per cent.

China Mobile also faces a huge capital expenditure bill this year as it extends 5G services outside the big cities and into less densely populated communities.  It plans to spend RMB183.6 billion ($28.3 billion) in total, up from RMB180.6 billion ($27.8 billion) last year. In its last annual report, it said that approximately RMB110 billion ($17 billion) would go toward 5G rollouts.

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References:

https://www.chinamobileltd.com/en/file/view.php?id=246145

https://www.lightreading.com/5g/china-mobile-warns-of-mounting-5g-costs/d/d-id/768941?

China Mobile revenue climbs on 5G handset growth

 

Telenor trial of multi-vendor 5G Standalone (SA) core network on vendor neutral platform

Telenor Group [1.] today said it has established a 5G standalone core network environment using a vendor-neutral platform, with network functions from Oracle, Casa Systems, Enea and Kaloom, all running on Red Hat Openshift. It has deployed Palo Alto Networks Prisma Cloud Compute protection and a 5G New Radio (NR) cellular transmission system from Huawei. Telenor said its 5G standalone (SA) trial using commercially available components proves that a multi-vendor environment is possible.

Note 1. Telenor Group is a Norwegian majority state-owned multinational telecommunications company headquartered at Fornebu in Bærum, close to Oslo, Norway.

The Palo Alto Networks Next Generation Firewall is being used to securing internet connectivity for mobile devices, said Telenor. Red Hat’s Ansible Platform is being used as a scalable automation system, and Emblasoft is providing automated network testing capabilities. The Norwegian Armed Forces have tested Security as a Service enabled by the multi-vendor set-up, it added.

Patrick Waldemar, vice president and head of technology at Telenor Research, said:

“The main component of 5G-SA is the 5G mobile core, the ‘brain’ of the 5G system. Unfortunately, most 5G core deployments are still single vendor dependent, with strong dependencies on that vendor’s underlying proprietary architecture. This single-vendor dependency can be a killer for innovation. It restricts open collaboration from the broader 5G ecosystem of companies developing new technology, use cases, and services that the market expects.”

“To protect the 5G infrastructure from cyber threats, we deployed Palo Alto Networks Prisma Cloud Compute, and their Next Generation Firewall is also securing Internet connectivity for mobile devices. Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform is being used as a scalable automation system, while Emblasoft is providing automated network testing capabilities. The 5G New Radio (NR) is from Huawei,” says Waldemar.

Telenor’s 5G-SA trial, with commercially available components, demonstrates that a truly multi-vendor environment is possible.  However, this author has doubts that a multi-vendor 5G SA core network will go into production anytime soon.

“We believes that such a multi-vendor environment will stimulate innovation, reduce cost of the infrastructure, increase competition and accelerate the development of an open 5G-ecosystem which in turn will enable a range of new services for Telenor’s consumers, industry and government customers,” says Waldemar.

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Heavy Reading Survey:

One of the key choices for a 5G cloud native core network  is between infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS).

A Heavy Reading “Cloud-Native 5G Core Operator Survey” published in March 2021 identifies a preference for an IaaS model (45%) over PaaS (32%) and vendor-integrated full stack (23%). Larger operators, however, prefer PaaS.

Respondents working for operators with revenue of more than $5 billion annually are somewhat more likely to select PaaS, with a score of 44% versus 41% for IaaS and 16% for the vendor full stack. Conversely, respondents working for operators with revenue of less than $5 billion reported a score 23% for PaaS, 49% for IaaS and 28% for the vendor full stack. This difference reflects corporate cloud technology strategies and, to some extent, the internal capabilities of the operator’s technology team.

Source:  Heavy Reading

The overall picture, according to the survey, is that both PaaS and IaaS models are likely to be used over the near and medium terms. This accords with Heavy Reading’s understanding that both models are already in use, in production, for 5G core. Nevertheless, Heavy Reading expect the PaaS model and the container as a service (CaaS) variant to prevail over the longer term, especially as 5G core workloads move closer to the edge.

For more information contact:

Stian Kristoffer Sande, Communication Manager, Telenor Group stian-kristoffer.sande@telenor.com

References:

https://www.telenor.com/media/announcement/groundbreaking-5g-solution-paves-the-way-for-new-digital-services

https://www.telecompaper.com/news/telenor-runs-5g-sa-trial-of-multi-vendor-core-on-red-hat–1380126

https://www.lightreading.com/5g/cloud-infrastructure-for-5g-core/a/d-id/768873?

Aviat Sells TIP compliant 5G-Ready Disaggregated Transmission Network to Africell

Austin, TX based Aviat Networks has announced an agreement to provide Africell with a 5G-ready disaggregated transmission network in several African countries. The new network will be designed, installed and maintained by Aviat. It will include Aviat’s WTM 4000 and WTM 4800 multi-band point-to-point radios and CTR microwave switches, and TIP (Telecom Infra Project) compliant disaggregated cell site gateways (DCSGs).  The DCSGs are Edgecore Networks running IP Infusion’s OcNOS® network operating system. The deployment, which will occur in Q2 2021, is Africell’s first Telecom Infra Project (TIP)-compliant DCSG endeavor.

Editor’s Note:  The DCSG offers an open, disaggregated, and software-controlled option for supporting mobile services roll outs, including for 5G. In 2019, Telefónica announced the deployment of Infinera’s  TIP compliant DCSG product.  Telefónica Peru will deploy Infinera’s DRX-30 hardware and Converged Network Operating System (CNOS) software to support 4G and 5G infrastructure as well as fixed services.

“Leading mobile operators like Africell recognize the operational advantages of a disaggregated solution and how its flexibility will enable the rapid delivery of broadband services,” said Peter Smith, CEO of Aviat Networks. “We are proud that Africell has placed its confidence in Aviat to meet the challenge of their first TIP-compliant DCSG project.”

“With escalating demand for high-speed mobile Internet services in our markets, and with 5G in our sights, we sought an approach that offers us fast deployment, maximum flexibility, and lowest TCO,” said Younes Chaaban, Africell’s Chief Technical Officer. “Aviat’s backhaul and DCSG solution was the clear choice to meet all these challenges and support the rapid network growth of our transmission network well into the future.”

About Aviat Networks    
Aviat Networks, Inc. is the leading expert in wireless transport solutions and works to provide dependable products, services and support to its customers. With more than one million systems sold into 170 countries worldwide, communications service providers and private network operators including state/local government, utility, federal government and defense organizations trust Aviat with their critical applications. Coupled with a long history of microwave innovations, Aviat provides a comprehensive suite of localized professional and support services enabling customers to drastically simplify both their networks and their lives. For more than 70 years, the experts at Aviat have delivered high performance products, simplified operations, and the best overall customer experience. Aviat Networks is headquartered in Austin, Texas. For more information, visit www.aviatnetworks.com or connect with Aviat Networks on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

About Africell    
Africell is one of the fastest growing mobile operators in Africa. The company currently operates in four countries – The GambiaSierra LeoneDemocratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. Africell will launch operations in a fifth country, Angola, in 2021.  http://www.africell.com

Media Contact: Gary Croke, Aviat Networks, Inc., gary.croke@aviatnet.com

Investor Relations Contact: Keith Fanneron, Aviat Networks, Inc., keith.fanneron@aviatnet.com

SOURCE Aviat Networks, Inc.

Related Links

http://www.aviatnetworks.com

 

Performance analysis of big 3 U.S. mobile operators; 5G is disappointing customers

Speedtest Intelligence® from Ookla reveals T-Mobile was the fastest mobile operator in the United States during Q1 2021 with a Speed Score™ of 50.21 on modern chipsets. AT&T was second and Verizon Wireless third.

Note that this is the first quarter Ookla is reporting on the country as a whole, rather than using competitive geographies. Ookla says that expanding its focus to include rural areas will show drops in performance, decreasing speed and increasing latency when compared with prior reports.

In Q1 2021, T-Mobile had the fastest median 5G network download speed in the U.S. at 82.35 Mbps. AT&T was second at 76.60 Mbps and Verizon Wireless third at 67.24 Mbps. For a complete view of commercially available 5G deployments in the U.S. to-date, visit the Ookla 5G Map™.

Ookla discovered that during Q1 2021 that T-Mobile subscribers with 5G-capable devices were connected to a 5G service 65.4% of the time. 5G “time spent” on Verizon Wireless’ network was at 36.2% and at 31% on AT&T’s network.

In measuring each operator’s ability to provide consistent speeds, Ookla found that T-Mobile had the highest Consistency Score™ in the U.S. during Q1 2021, with 84.8% of results showing at least 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds. AT&T was second and Verizon Wireless third. All three U.S. mobile carriers were above 80% in terms of consistency.

Calculating median latency for top mobile providers in United States during Q1 2021, AT&T and Verizon Wireless had the lowest latency at 32 ms.

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Earlier this week a new report from becnhmarking company Rootmetrics found that T-Mobile US is leading in 5G availability across U.S. cities. Rootmetrics found that AT&T’s 5G provides the best performance, and AT&T and Verizon both won high marks for 5G reliability.

“While we’ve seen strong and improving 5G availability and speeds from the carriers in many cities, it’s important to keep in mind that with the major U.S. networks utilizing different types of spectrum for 5G, the 5G availability and speeds that consumers experience can vary a great deal for different carriers across or even within different markets,” Rootmetrics concluded.

Rootmetrics tested 5G networks in 45 cities across the U.S. between January and March of this year. It recorded at least some 5G availability from all three carriers in nearly all of them. T-Mobile US was the only carrier with a 5G network presence in all 45 of the cities, AT&T had 5G service in 44 out of the 45, and Rootmetrics saw 5G availability for Verizon in 43 out of the 45 cities.

The availability of T-Mobile’s 5G was one common theme across both testing reports. Rootmetrics’ testing, conducted in the first half of 2021, said that T-Mobile had 5G availability in all 45 of the markets it tested and showed the highest percentages of 5G availability in the most markets: More than 55% availability in 30 markets, with the lowest tested market being Sarasota, FL, where Rootmetrics’ testing showed T-Mo 5G available for a device to connect to only about 19% of the time.

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Separately, Light Reading’s Mike Dano writes that “AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile offer unlimited 5G disappointment.”  In a subhead titled, “T-Muddle” Dano writes:

In 2019, T-Mobile boasted that “5G speed will be up to 10x faster, compared to LTE.” But when it first launched its 5G network on its lowband 600MHz spectrum, speeds were only 20% faster than its LTE network. Then, after T-Mobile closed its acquisition of Sprint’s 2.5GHz midband spectrum, it quickly began offering 5G speeds up to 1Gbit/s. The operator even debuted a new 5G lexicon for its offerings: “5G Ultra Capacity” refers to its speedy 2.5GHz network, while “Extended Range 5G” refers to its slower 600MHz network.

So it would stand to reason that customers might want to see which flavor of T-Mobile 5G they can access, right? A quick check of T-Mobile’s coverage map reveals none of these details. The operator only offers a generic “5G” coverage layer that does not provide details about whether it’s 600MHz or 2.5GHz. One is slightly faster than LTE while the other provides average speeds of 300Mbit/s. Prospective T-Mobile customers are left in the dark.

T-Mobile isn’t the only operator seemingly content to hide behind 5G obfuscation. AT&T has debuted no fewer than three different 5G brands – 5G+, 5Ge and 5G – yet it does not offer any details to prospective customers about how it might charge for those offerings. The operator’s pricing plans mention only “5G” and do not specify whether that means 5G+, 5Ge or 5G, or all three.

Regarding Verizon’s 5G pricing plans, Dano stated:

The operator offers a truly dizzying array of 5G plans and pricing options – one observer described Verizon’s pricing plans as “a series of nesting dolls.”

In 5G, Verizon is reserving its faster “Ultra Wideband” technology only for its expensive unlimited plans. Customers on its cheapest Start Unlimited plan can either pay $10 extra for 5G specifically, or they can spend that same $10 to upgrade to a more expensive unlimited plan that offers 5G as well as other goodies, such as more mobile hotspot data. Why the two different upgrade options? “We always like to give customers choices,” explained a Verizon spokesperson.

But what that really means is that customers are simply left to fend for themselves. They’re left to pick from among a dizzying number of pricing options, all promising “unlimited” data, but all limiting that data in various ways. Customers are left to figure out why messages from iPhones to Android phones won’t show delivery receipts. They’re left to discover why they’re still receiving robocalls, and what they might need to do to block them. They’re left to uncover what kind of 5G they can get and whether it’s any different from 4G.

In conclusion, Dano says that “AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile continue to be very interested in outdoing one another in their 5G pricing schemes and big, new network claims.” However, they’re not succeeding in pleasing their customers who remain frustrated and disappointed.

Cartoon courtesy of long time IEEE contributor Geoff Thompson:

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References:

https://www.speedtest.net/global-index/united-states#market-analysis

https://rootmetrics.com/en-US/content/5g-in-the-us-1H-2021

https://www.lightreading.com/aiautomation/atandt-verizon-and-t-mobile-offer-unlimited-5g-disappointment/a/d-id/768808?

Ookla speed tests peg T-Mo as having fastest 5G

 

3 South Korean mobile operators to share 5G networks in remote areas

The big three South Korean mobile operators – SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus -have agreed to share their 5G networks in 131 remote locations across the country, Yonhap news agency reported. According to the Ministry of Science and ICT. the initiative is designed to accelerate the rollout of 5G networks across the country.

Under the plan, a 5G user would be able to use other carrier networks in such regions that are not serviced by their carrier.  The ministry said telecom operators will test the network sharing system before the end of this year and aim for complete commercialization in phases by 2024.

The ministry said the selected remote regions are sparsely populated, with a population density of 92 people per square kilometer, compared with those without network sharing at 3,490 people per square kilometer.

The move comes as the country races to establish nationwide 5G coverage, with network equipment currently installed in major cities.  The big three South Korean telecom operators promised in July 2020 to invest up to 25.7 trillion won (US$23.02 billion) to update their network infrastructure by 2022.

South Korea was the world’s first country to commercialize 5G in April 2019. As of February 2021, the country had 13.66 million 5G subscriptions, after a net addition of 792,118 subscribers during the month.  That’s 19 percent of its total mobile users. SK Telecom had the largest number of 5G subscribers at 6.35 million, followed by KT Corp. at 4.16 million and LG Uplus at 3.15 million.

According to data from the Ministry of Science and ICT, a big boost in 5G subscriptions during the first two months of the year was chiefly due to the popularity of Samsung Electronics’ latest flagship Galaxy S21 smartphones, which already surpassed 1 million units in domestic sales last week. The country’s three carriers are seeking faster adoption of 5G across the country and have announced more affordable 5G plans to promote the adoption of the technology.

South Korean telecom operators currently provide 5G services via non-standalone 5G networks, which depend on previous 4G LTE networks. The country’s three operators launched 5G technology in April 2019, and 5G networks are available mostly in large cities.

SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus are currently preparing to commercialize new technology, such as Standalone versions of the 5G networks and millimeter-wave 5G.

References:

https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210415002500320

Korean carriers ink deal to share 5G infra in remote areas

AT&T Exec: 5G Private Networks are coming soon + 5G Security Conundrum?

Just two weeks after Verizon won a 5G Private Network contract in the UK, AT&T now says that Private 5G Networks are coming soon to your office or campus.  AT&T’s Rita Marty wrote in a blog post that many companies want “5G in a private space.”

“We’ve done exactly that at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Fans will get experiences like live stats projected over the field on their smartphone camera.”

“Some organizations want a truly private, standalone 5G system. They envision full control of a “local area network” similar to corporate Wi-Fi, but with the performance, reliability and security of cellular.  Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada is testing one flavor: a 5G-powered command-and-control center on a trailer. It will form the hub of a moveable, private cellular network for local personnel in a conflict area.

Ms. Marty alluded to network slicing and edge computing in her blog post.  Those are two ultra hyped technologies that have yet to be deployed at scale by any 5G network operator.

“Other organizations are enhancing their 5G coverage with the ability to control specific local traffic themselves. They can peel off (via network slicing) certain data flows for “edge computing.” This means alarms in a factory, for instance, could be processed right on the premises – and thus much more quickly. MxD, a manufacturing innovation center in Chicago, is showing how fractions of seconds can help solve quality, safety and inventory issues.

Network slicing allows 5G network operators to create different sub-networks (which can be private) networks with different properties. Each sub-network slices the resources from the physical network to create its own independent, no-compromised network for its preferred applications.  It requires a 5G standalone core network, the implementation of which has not been standardized and AT&T has yet to deploy.

Most of AT&T’s activities in mobile edge computing and private 5G networks are in trials and testing.  AT&T is working to bring enhanced capabilities to their edge computing solutions by testing AT&T Network Edge (ANE) with cloud providers.  AT&T says ANE’s potential benefits include:

  • Lower latency: Deliver low-latency connectivity to high performance compute
  • Network routing optimization: Network integration with cloud providers
  • Extended cloud ecosystem: AT&T intends to develop an extended ANE ecosystem, allowing customers to use cloud services like they do today.

Image Credit:  AT&T

Private networks also need careful thought and consultation, Ms. Marty stated. “Considerations include design, spectrum, and who’s going to actually run it. Even a standalone network, and even 5G, must be set up properly to achieve the highest security against cyberattacks,” she added.

5G Security Conundrum:

As leader of AT&T’s 5G security team, Ms. Marty has her work cut out for her.  Especially considering choosing which of the 3GPP 5G SA security specs to support.  Many of them are not complete and targeted for 3GPP Release 17.  Also, European network operators have taken different approaches to 5G security and this will likely be a global phenomenon.

The real work on 5G security is being done by 3GPP with technical specification (TS) 33.501 Security architecture and procedures for 5G system being the foundation 5G security document.  That 3GPP spec was first published in Release 16, but the latest version dated 16 December 2020 is targeted at Release 17.  You can see all versions of that spec here.

3GPP’s 5G security architecture is designed to integrate 4G equivalent security. In addition, the reassessment of other security threats such as attacks on radio interfaces, signaling plane, user plane, masquerading, privacy, replay, bidding down, man-in-the-middle and inter-operator security issues have also been taken in to account for 5G and will lead to further security enhancements.

Another important 3GPP Security spec is TS 33.51 Security Assurance Specification (SCAS) for the next generation Node B (gNodeB) network product class, which is part of Release 16.  The latest version is dated Sept 25, 2020.

Here’s a chart on 3GPP and GSMA specs on 5G Security,  courtesy of Heavy Reading:

Question: When do you plan to implement the following 5G security specifications? (n=105-108) (Source: Heavy Reading)

Scott Poretsky, Ericsson’s Head of Security, wrote in an email:

“The reason for the inconsistent implementation of the 5G security requirements is the language in the 3GPP specs that make it mandatory for vendor support of the security features and optional for the operator to decide to use the feature.  The requirements are defined in this manner because some countries did not want these security features implemented by their national telecoms due to these security features also providing privacy.  The U.S. was not one of those countries.”

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References:

https://about.att.com/innovationblog/2021/private_5G_networks.html

https://www.business.att.com/learn/top-voices/att-continues-development-of-network-edge-compute.html

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2018/05/18/ieee-comsoc-papers-on-network-slicing-and-5g/

5G Security Issues Raise Mission Critical Questions & Issues