AT&T CEO: Fiber, Stories and (Video) Content to drive future revenues and growth

At Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference, AT&T CEO John T. Stankey said that broadband connectivity was a key focus area for the company. “Anything that we can do to put more fiber out into the network, serve both our consumer and business segments and use that to power what over time is going to become a much more dense and distributed wireless network. And that’s, first of all, one of our key focus areas and something that we see as being very important to us,” he said.

What Stankey said next was somewhat of a surprise, “We think we’re great storytellers, and that we have a unique ability to produce (video) content that’s special and different. And we’d like to continue doing that and telling those great stories and then using the combination of that connectivity in those stories to wrap it in software.”

When asked where should AT&T allocate capital, the CEO said:

  1.  Invest in its core business, which is fiber and broadband connectivity on 5G
  2.  Software driven entertainment products with HBO Max at the forefront of that, but it is a multi-year effort.
  3.  Ensuring that AT&T operations are set up to be successful and effective in the market that they’re serving customers. Also, that AT&T has data  properly positioned for advertising monetization and  to gain “great insights on customers.”

“When you have a great 5G network, you’re deploying a lot of fiber, and that’s something that we think are married well,” Stankey said, as per this transcript. “And we think we’re in a very unique position because the fiber that we deploy not only powers our wireless business, but it helps our consumer business and fixed broadband. It helps our enterprise customers and how we deal with them as well, and so we strategically want to make sure we’re doing that.”

When asked if there was a business case for adding more fiber, Stankey answered in the affirmative. Stankey said AT&T’s confidence level for deploying more fiber is even higher now due to increased traffic on its network as a result of the  Covid-19 lockdowns.

“There is clearly an easy path for us to think about a substantially larger fiber footprint than what we have today with returns that are as good as the great returns we’ve gotten from the first tranche that we’ve built,” Stankey said.

“If you go in and look at the rest of our business on the core connectivity, we thought robust scale and connectivity networks were always going
to be important. And what we’ve seen is what was important in the urban areas is now distributed. And while we’ve had good infrastructure in
place in many areas, we have an opportunity to go do more. We have an opportunity to think about more varied forms of access that are more
flexible. And I think that, that plays right into our strength, and we’re looking at redoubling our efforts on those product development opportunities
that allow for true flexibility of bandwidth as somebody moves through a city center out to suburban areas. Our play in 5G, a more dense fiber
network all play really well into those thing.”

Stanky added that he was pleased with the investments the company has made in infrastructure and in its network over the last several years. Also, some of the new initiatives round FirstNet and focus on the development of 5G are really starting to to “bear fruit” in terms of AT&T’s  performance in the industry.

In closing, Goldman moderator John E. Waldron asked the AT&T CEO, “If we were to have this conversation 5 to 10 years from now, how do you think AT&T will have changed from the company you are today?”

Stankey talked up AT&T’s broadband services and entertainment products:

“If I were to think about 5 years out and what I’d like to be able to come and tell you is, to my point earlier, that we are focused in a set .of products; that we’re really proud of in the market that were — that customers love and think are really strong; that our broadband connectivity products (these are actually services, not products), whether you’re a business with a complicated distributed network or you’re at home, using one of our fixed broadband connections or a subscriber of our wireless service, you view them as being the best-in-class that are there; that our entertainment products are unique and that you can’t live without the stories that we’re telling; and that our employees who bring those products and services to our customers have a lot of pride in those, and they see them as being best-in-class and unique and special in the market. And that’s kind of universally held across our business. And as a result of that, employees want to come, not only continue to work here, we’re able to go out the market and recruit because people say, “Those are great products. It’s a great company that offers those things, and I feel compelled to want to go and participate in that.” So a high degree of employee loyalty around the products and services that we bring in that manifest itself in great employee engagement and great customer receptivity of those products. And 5 years from now that we’re known in that regard.”

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References:

https://event.webcasts.com/viewer/event.jsp?ei=1365838&tp_key=1587a26f6b

https://investors.att.com/~/media/Files/A/ATT-IR/events-and-presentations/jts-at-goldman-transript-sept-15.pdf

Why It’s IMPORTANT: Telefonica, Rakuten MOU on Open RAN, 5G Core Network and OSS

Rakuten Mobile, Inc., and Telefónica, S.A. announced today the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to cooperate on a shared vision to advance OpenRAN, 5G Core and OSS (operations support systems).

“We’re excited to collaborate with Telefónica on this shared vision of advancing OpenRAN,” said Tareq Amin, Representative Director, Executive Vice President and CTO of Rakuten Mobile. “I envision our partnership to also co-explore further development around Rakuten Communications Platform that will enable operators around the world to take advantage of cost-effective cloud-native mobile network architecture that is secure and reliable.” (Emphasis added)

Amin emphasised the partnership is not just about opening the interfaces: “It’s about the future possibilities when these networks become fully autonomous. What makes a difference is automation, as it enables much needed operational savings. We’re going to spend a lot of energy around joint development of automation, especially what we call OSS transformation to move away from legacy systems.”

Enrique Blanco, Chief Technology & Information Officer (CTIO) at Telefónica, said: “Telefónica strongly believes that networks are evolving towards end-to-end virtualization through an open architecture, and OpenRAN is a key piece of the whole picture. Beyond the flexibility and simplicity that OpenRAN will provide, it will change the supplier ecosystem and revolutionise the current 5G industry in the medium and long term. At the same time, open and virtualized networks will lead to a new telco operating model. Telefonica and Rakuten Mobile have signed this MoU to work towards evaluating and demonstrating the capability and feasibility of OpenRAN architectures and make them a reality.”

“This is a massive opportunity for all of us. This is an inclusive approach and how we can guarantee we are building the network for the future,” Blanco added.  In addition to defining the interfaces, the companies are exploring procurement of hardware and software, Blanco said.

Under the terms of the MoU, Rakuten Mobile and Telefónica plan to collaborate on the following:

  • To research and conduct lab tests and trials to support OpenRAN architectures, including the role of the AI (Artificial Intelligence) in the RAN Networks.
  • To jointly develop proposals for optimal 5G RAN architecture and OpenRAN models as part of industry efforts to achieve quicker time to market, new price-points, and the benefits of software-centric RAN.
  • To collaborate in building an open and cost-effective 5G ecosystem, based on open interfaces, that will help accelerate the maturity of 5G with global roaming.
  • To develop a joint procurement scheme of OpenRAN Hardware and Software that will help increase volumes and reach economies of scale, including CUs, DUs, RRUs, and other necessary network equipment and/or software components.

In addition, the companies will also jointly work on 4G/5G Core and OSS technology utilized by Rakuten Mobile in Japan and its Rakuten Communications Platform.

“Vendor selection typically takes a long time in the telecoms industry compared with the web-scale companies. Maybe together with Telefonica the discussions with vendors might change a bit and require us to create new business models.”

Telefonica plans to introduce open RAN in three phases, with pilots starting this year, initial rollouts in 2021 and mass deployments in 2022. “I’m extremely convinced we’ll hit these targets, but we are trying to be conservative,” Blanco said.  From 2022 to 2025, up to half of Telefonica’s 5G deployments will use open RAN, he added.

Why this MOU is IMPORTANT:

  1.  As there are no ITU recommendations or 3GPP specs detailing how to implement a 5G Core/5G SA network, the Rakuten-NEC 5G core could become a defacto standard. As we’ve stated many times, the 3GPP specs on 5G Core are network architecture specs that leave the various implementation choices to the implementor. And 3GPP is not even sending their 5G non-radio specs to ITU-T for consideration as future recommendations.  Meanwhile, Rakuten and NEC have created a 5G “cloud native” core spec (proprietary of course) built on containers, which NEC (and likely other vendors) will implement in Rakuten’s 5G network.  Rakuten and NEC plan to offer there 5G Core as a product to other 5G network operators.  Telefónica could be the first customer for this 5G core product.  Hence, this 5G Core product could
  2. The Rakuten Communications Platform for Open RAN could similarly be sold to other carriers that want to deploy an Open RAN 4G/5G network.  The catch here is that any legacy wireless carrier wanting to do so would have to support two incompatible sets of cellular infrastructure to serve its customers: 1] The traditional “closed box base stations” (from Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, ZTE, etc)  in cell towers AND 2] The new Open RAN, multi-vendor base stations using totally different hardware/software platforms which requires a significant amount of systems integration and tech support/trouble resolution.  Rakuten’s platform could, at the very least, simplify systems integration and avoid “finger pointing” when troubleshooting a failure or degraded service.
  3. Both the Rakuten-NEC 5G Core and Rakuten Communications Platform for Open RAN could be terrific products to sell to greenfield carriers (with no existing wireless infrastructure).  Apparently, that’s too late for Dish Network and Reliance Jio, which claim they’re building their own “open 5G” network.  Meanwhile, India based Tech Mahindra claims it can build a complete 5G network now, which they would surely sell to would be 5G network providers, utilities, and government agencies around the world.
  4. The OSS co-operation amongst these two carriers is significant, because (once again) there are no standards for 5G SA OSS’s such that the deliverable output of cooperation here could become a defacto standard.
  5. Co-operative work on automation of network functions and operations will also be vitally important. Otherwise, that too will be proprietary to the wireless network provider which would require different software for the SAME functions for different carriers.  The work will probably start with these 2800 series 3GPP specs: TS 28.554 Management and orchestration; 5G end to end Key Performance Indicators (KPI); TS 28.555 Management and orchestration; Network policy management for 5G mobile networks; Stage 1 TS 28.556 Management and orchestration; Network policy management for 5G mobile networks; Stage 2 and stage 3.  There are similar ITU-T SG 13 high level Recommendations on these subjects.

Rakuten's network: is it really cloud-native, multi-vendor and fully-virtualised?

                                                  Image Credit: STL Partners

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About Rakuten Mobile

Rakuten Mobile, Inc. is a Rakuten Group company responsible for mobile communications, including mobile network operator (MNO) and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) businesses, as well as ICT and energy. Through continuous innovation and the deployment of advanced technology, Rakuten Mobile aims to redefine expectations in the mobile communications industry in order to provide appealing and convenient services that respond to diverse customer needs.

About Telefónica

Telefónica is one of the largest telecommunications service providers in the world. The company offers fixed and mobile connectivity as well as a wide range of digital services for residential and business customers. With 342 million customers, Telefónica operates in Europe and Latin America. Telefónica is a 100% listed company and its shares are traded on the Spanish Stock Market and on those in New York and Lima.

Telefonica was a co-founder of the Open RAN Policy Coalition, and previously partnered with five companies including Altiostar and Intel to foster the approach.

For more information about Telefónica: www.telefonica.com

References:

https://www.telefonica.com/en/web/press-office/-/rakuten-mobile-and-telefonica-sign-mou-to-cooperate-on-openran

Telefonica, Rakuten strike open RAN deal

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/06/03/rakuten-mobile-inc-and-nec-to-jointly-develop-the-containerized-standalone-sa-5g-core-network/

 

https://www.sdxcentral.com/articles/news/rakuten-mobile-loss-widens-as-network-build-ramps-up/2020/08/

Rakuten’s network: is it really cloud-native, multi-vendor and fully-virtualised?

AT&T Announces 5G Roaming in Japan when 5G roam-capable devices are available

AT&T 5G customers will be the first U.S. mobile customers to have the ability to access 5G in Japan through an international roaming agreement with NTT DOCOMO, Inc. and by using a 5G roam-capable device – the first of which will become available on the AT&T network this week.

The agreement delivers on AT&T’s commitment to keeping its customers connected and providing them with access to 5G – at home and around the globe – as capable devices become available.  However, this agreement is only for 5G NSA which uses an LTE anchor/core for all non-RAN related functions.

“As a longtime industry leader providing global connectivity, we’re evolving the breadth and depth of our global coverage with 5G,” said Susan A. Johnson, executive vice president – Global Connections & Supply Chain, AT&T. “This marks a significant milestone for AT&T and our customers.”

AT&T customers on a wireless plan that includes access to 5G in the U.S. will be able to access 5G in Japan through NTT DOCOMO, Inc., when they use a 5G roam-capable device.

But what are those 5G roam-capable devices and when will they be available?  They will surely be based on 3GPP Release 15 5GNR for the data plane, and 4G LTE for everything else, e.g. signaling, network management, security, 4G core/EPC, etc.  Hence, this arrangement might be called “5G NSA roaming with a LTE core network/EPC.”  5G SA roaming will be much more complicated as there is no standard for 5G core network and all the “cloud native” functions (like network slicing and virtualization) it will support.

“We’re excited to launch 5G roaming in Japan on NTT DOCOMO, Inc.’s network because of what it means for our customers,” said JR Wilson, vice president – Tower Strategy & Roaming, AT&T. “Our teams never stop innovating, developing and deploying the latest technology to provide our customers with access to a next-generation network – at home and abroad.”

AT&T claims they have historically been a leader in global roaming. So, while the company continues innovating to enable customers with compatible devices to access 5G internationally, those with LTE devices can still expect the same great roaming coverage they’re used to while traveling.

NTT DOCOMO is the first mobile operator in Japan to offer an inbound 5G roaming service.  Going forward, DOCOMO plans to expand its inbound 5G roaming service with mobile operators around the globe.  Again, that will surely be for 5G NSA service.

References:

https://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/info/media_center/pr/2020/0914_00.html

Addendum:  5G SA roaming will be much more difficult

Roaming with a 5G SA endpoint device (smartphone, tablet, notebook PC, robot/industrial equipment, etc. won’t be achieved anytime soon. Why? There is no standard for 5G core network which have to interoperate with one another for roaming.

The 3GPP core network specs are architecture documents that do NOT specify implementation details.  Therefore, every 5G network provider will have its own 5G core spec which is implemented in the core network routers/compute servers and endpoints.  So each 5G endpoint (e.g. smartphone or tablet/notebook PC) will have to download a 5G SA software update from the 5G network provider.  That means that unless there are bilateral 5G carrier roaming agreements, a 5G end point can only work on the 5G core network it’s subscribed to, e.g. no portability or interoperability!

For example, there are many software choices for implementing a “cloud native” 5G Core: containers, virtualized network functions, kubernetes, micro-services. Each Network Function (NF) offers one or more services to other NFs via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).  And there is no standard for the APIs associated with a given Network Function!

3GPP Rel 16 5G Core/Architecture specs: 

  • TS 23.501 5G Systems Architecture, with annexes which describe 5G core deployment scenarios:
  • TS 23.502 [3] contains the stage 2 procedures and flows for 5G System
  • TS 23.503 [45] contains the stage 2 Policy Control and Charging architecture for 5G System

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Ericsson: Multi-User MIMO with T-Mobile US; 5G with Telefónica; Open RAN Security WARNING

Author’s Note:

This post is actually three separate articles concerning “Ericsson in the news” today.  Rather, than read all three parts, simply scroll down to the story that interests you.  Let me (and others) know what you think by commenting in the box below the article.

1.   Multi-User MIMO demo with T-Mobile US

T-Mobile US and Ericsson demonstrated a 16-layer multi-user multi-input multi-output (MU-MIMO) [1.] on one channel of 2.5 GHz spectrum. The peak cellular data rate was more than 5.6 Gbps.

During the test, engineers connected eight separate smartphones to the same 5G radio and resources using MU-MIMO and beamforming in a specific direction to achieve more than 700 Mbps data rate on each device.

Note 1. Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) is a set of multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) technologies for wireless communication, in which a set of users or wireless terminals, each with one or more antennas, communicate with each other.

In contrast, single-user MIMO considers a single multi-antenna transmitter communicating with a single multi-antenna receiver. In a similar way that OFDMA adds multiple access (multi-user) capabilities to OFDM, MU-MIMO adds multiple access (multi-user) capabilities to MIMO. MU-MIMO has been investigated since the beginning of research into multi-antenna communication.

See the source image

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Using MU-MIMO, T-Mobile US could potentially connect many more devices to the same cell infrastructure and still deliver very fast speeds to all of them.  Using that set of technologies, wireless telcos might be able to deliver even better 5G performance to more people than was expected.

Using a commercially available massive MIMO radio with 64 antennas from Ericsson and OnePlus 8 5G smartphones T-Mobile sells today, 16 unique data streams were transmitted.  Each stream was capable of transmitting/receiving at more than 350 Mbps.  With two data streams for each device, that’s 700+ Mbps for each smartphone, all using the same radio resources at the same time.

With 100 MHz of total 5G spectrum used in the demonstration, T-Mobile US was able to achieve a 50+ bps/Hz in spectral efficiency. That is much higher than the single digit efficiency typically experienced today.

“This is what you get when you pair T-Mobile’s unmatched spectrum portfolio with the best damn team in wireless — innovation that changes the game for the entire industry,” said Neville Ray, President of Technology at T-Mobile. “We have a 5G network that’s second to none, and it’s getting better by the day thanks to our amazing engineers and partners. Just wait until you see what they do next for our customers!”

T-Mobile US expects to begin deploying this technology in 2021 as they continue the goal of building America’s best 5G network.

References:

https://www.t-mobile.com/news/network/t-mobile-achieves-mind-blowing-5g-speeds-with-mu-mimo

For more information about T-Mobile’s 5G vision, visit: www.t-mobile.com/5g. To see all the places you’ll get T-Mobile’s current 5G down to a neighborhood level, check out the map at www.t-mobile.com/coverage/5g-coverage-map.

https://www.telecompaper.com/news/t-mobile-us-achieves-5g-speeds-with-mu-mimo–1353491

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2. Ericsson partners with Telefónica on Spain 5G launch

Ericsson has confirmed that it’s helping Telefónica’s planned launch of 5G services to cover 75 percent of the Spanish population by the end of 2020, including the major cities of Madrid and Barcelona.
In a statement, Ericsson said its field professionals have been working alongside Telefónica’s engineers to ensure that 5G base station sites across the network will be fully operational when the operator makes the service available for its subscribers.
Thousands of Ericsson cell sites are expected to be activated by year end, said the Swedish wireless telecom equipment vendor.  Ericsson said that Spectrum Sharing will enable Telefónica Spain to simultaneously share 5G and 4G spectrum, for a quick and efficient 5G network roll-out.

Ericsson is providing new 3.5Ghz radio equipment and software upgrades to 5G-ready Ericsson radios in Telefónica’s network. With Ericsson Radio System products already deployed in parts of Telefónica Spain’s network, fast, flexible, and cost-efficient 5G activation is made easier.

Joaquín Mata, CTO, Telefónica Spain, says: “The launch of our 5G network constitutes a leap forward towards the hyper connectivity that will change the future of Spain. We are very pleased with the collaboration with Ericsson to build one of the best 5G networks in Europe.”

Arun Bansal, President of Ericsson Europe and Latin America, says: “With our leading technology, Telefónica will offer its customers 5G faster and support them to reach 75 percent coverage of the population by the end of the year. With our swift 5G roll-out, Spain is ready for the next digital revolution and Ericsson is proud to be powering it together with Telefónica.”

References:
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3.   Ericsson Warning on Security Risks of Open RAN
In a clarion call for caution, an Ericsson blog post today raised a huge concern that Open RAN might open the door for new security risks in 5G. The company also posted a 14 page whitepaper on “Security Considerations of Open RAN.”
Jason S. Boswell, Head of Security at Ericsson’s Network Product Solutions wrote on the company website:

As the industry evolves towards RAN virtualization, with virtual RAN or Open RAN (O-RAN), it is important that a risk-based approach is taken to adequately address security.Virtualization throughout the network and a service-based architecture means that security needs to be handled in a new way.

5G will accelerate innovation and provide transformative use cases across multiple global sectors. However, it will also bring new security challenges for the mobile ecosystem, with broader attack surfaces, more devices and increased traffic loads. We must have networks that are trustworthy, resilient, and secure at every phase of the system lifecycle.  These new security challenges are addressed by 3GPP’s SA3 security work group.

Expanded threat surface

The introduction of new and additional touch points in O-RAN architecture, along with the decoupling of hardware and software, has the potential to expand the threat and attack surface of the network in numerous ways, including:

  • New interfaces increase threat surface – for example, open fronthaul, A1, E2, etc.
  • Near-Real-Time (RT) RIC and 3PP xApps introduces new threats that could be exploited
  • Decoupling of hardware increases threat to Trust Chain
  • Management interfaces may not be secured to industry best practices
  • (not exclusive to O-RAN):  adherence to Open Source best practices

These and other areas are explored in greater depth in Ericsson’s report, Security considerations of Open RAN.  Many of these items are being studied in several O-RAN Alliance working groups, including the Security Task Group, a consensus-based standards group that will ensure that O-RAN implementations meet the levels of security expected by the industry.

Ericsson is committed to providing leadership and guidance in the O-RAN Alliance on these emerging areas of study.  In the meantime, let’s take an in-depth look at just one of these new areas of risk:

Weakened Links in the Trust Chain 

Virtualization and the use of cloud platforms give the possibility to utilize hardware resources better between different applications, but it will also introduce security risks as isolation between applications are only “logical” in software without physical isolation across hardware resources. Recently discovered vulnerabilities like Meltdown and Spectre reveal that there can be increased security risks when sharing hardware resources.

To establish a secure and trusted communication channel between two endpoints, one needs first to authenticate each side before a secure (confidentiality and integrity-protected) channel can be established. To authenticate each endpoint, a unique identifier and one or more credentials that shall be kept secret are needed. To protect the credentials in a computer environment, hardware security functionality such as Trusted Platform Module (TPM), Hardware Security Module (HSM), and secure enclaves, are used to establish a hardware root of trust.

In the case of virtualization and cloud environments, there are many layers that need to be considered to ensure the trust chain is maintained between applications and the underlying hardware. The authentication process is the base for establishing a secure communication channel, but it must trust the layers underneath to attest that the node, layer or data set has not been compromised. For example, a node could request a valid service, authenticate correctly to the system and be authorized to use that service yet still represent a malicious threat if it is running on compromised firmware.

As there are different layers between the hardware and its security functions and the application, one needs standardized interfaces and APIs to use the hardware security functions and allow those to attest to and validate the layers above. Together with standardized and interoperable APIs, there must also be a transparency to how the different layers use and provide the security functions in the chain, especially as different hardware vendors may have different security functions, capabilities or implementation variances.

O-RAN: Additional functions, interfaces and a modified architecture

Figure 1. O-RAN: Additional functions, interfaces and a modified architecture  (Source: Ericsson)

Ericsson will continue its leadership role within the O-RAN Alliance and its Security Task Group to incorporate security best practices, ensuring that new deployments are ready to meet the level of security, resilience and performance expected by service providers and their customers.
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The Open RAN Policy Coalition, a U.S. special interest (i.e. lobbying) group looking for U.S. government funding for Open RAN technology, today announced several new members (American Tower, Broadcom, GigaTera Communications, Inseego, Ligado Networks, Nvidia, RIFT, Texas Instruments and Xilinx).   Ericsson is not a member, but arch rival Nokia is.  Cloud giants AWS, Google and Facebook are members. Obviously, Chinese vendors aren’t welcome to join the Coalition. The complete Coalition membership list is here.

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Coalition members believe that by standardizing or “opening” the protocols and interfaces between the various subcomponents (radios, hardware and software) in the RAN, we move to an environment where networks can be deployed with a more modular design without being dependent upon a single vendor.   The Coalition will promote policies that:

  • Support global development of open and interoperable wireless technologies;
  • Signal government support for open and interoperable solutions;
  • Use government procurement to support vendor diversity;
  • Fund research and development;
  • Remove barriers to 5G deployment; and
  • Avoid heavy-handed or prescriptive solutions

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The FCC is scheduled to host an open RAN forum on September 14th.  FCC Chairman Pai will host experts at the forefront of the development and deployment of open, interoperable, standards-based, virtualized radio access networks to discuss this innovative new approach to 5G network architecture.

Panelists include representatives from Nokia, Parallel Wireless, Mavenir, Altiostar, HP Enterprise, Dell, VM Ware, and other would be Open RAN hardware/software vendors. But Ericsson will not be among them.

“Open and virtualized radio access networks may help operators deploy more secure, cost-effective 5G networks,” said Chairman Pai. “As part of the FCC’s 5G FAST Plan, the agency has taken many actions to promote American leadership in next generation wireless services. To that end, we want the United States to lead the way in researching and developing innovative approaches to mobile network deployment. I am pleased the FCC will convene these experts for a productive discussion about the current state of ORAN-related technologies and the path ahead.”
You can watch the live FCC forum webcast here.

SK Telecom, Samsung, HPE and Intel MOU for 5G NFV Technology Evolution; ETSI ISG-NFV?

Who needs the ETSI ISG on NFV?  Apparently, no one BUILDING 5G INFRASTRUCTURE!  Founded in November 2012 by seven of the world’s leading telecoms network operators, ETSI ISG NFV became the home of the definition and consolidation for Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) technologies.  Yet there is very little, if any, commercial deployments based on their specifications.  In particular, the greatly promoted ETSI NFV management and orchestration (NFV-MANO).

SK Telecom  today announced that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Samsung Electronics, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Intel for cooperation in the commercialization of an evolved 5G network functions virtualization (NFV) platform

Under the MOU, the four companies will jointly develop evolved NFV technologies for 5G network infrastructure, establish a standardized process for adoption of NFV, and develop technologies that can harness the capabilities of the virtualized network.   Together, the companies will be able to reduce the time required to validate and integrate technologies from various vendors as well as verify them within the network. This will result in a more rapid introduction of new innovative technologies that enhance end user experience.   

Mobile operators will be able to benefit from a significantly reduced time-to-market for the latest 5G services such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) through the NFV platform. Previously, they had to install each new hardware equipment or upgrade existing ones to introduce a new service.   

The four companies will realize an evolved 5G NFV platform by applying Samsung’s 5G solution based on technologies from Intel and HPE to SK Telecom’s 5G network.  To this end, Intel will provide its latest technologies, including Intel Xeon Processors, Ethernet 800 Series Network Adapters and Solid State Drives, and HPE will provide HPE ProLiant Servers to Samsung Electronics for early development and verification purposes. SK Telecom plans to establish a process for 5G network virtualization, which includes interconnecting its 5G core network to Samsung’s virtualized 5G solutions.   

“Through this global cooperation, we will secure a solid basis for commercialization of an evolved 5G NFV platform and provide more innovative services to our customers,” said Kang Jong-ryeol, Vice President and Head of ICT Infrastructure Center of SK Telecom. “Going forward, we will continue to develop new technologies for 5G NFV evolution to play a leading role in realizing communication services of the future.” 

“Together with SK Telecom, HPE and Intel, Samsung will lay the groundwork for network virtualization to allow SK Telecom to swiftly apply Samsung’s virtualized solutions on partner hardware platforms. As more operators look to virtualized networks, this collaboration will serve as an exemplar of transforming legacy networks to virtual networks,” said Roh Wonil, Senior Vice President and Head of Product Strategy, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics. “With proven success in 5G commercialization, we will continue to extend our 5G leadership, allowing customers to experience immersive 5G services.”  

“Industry collaboration is essential to accelerate the rollout of 5G networks,” said Dan Rodriguez, corporate vice president and general manager of the Intel Network Platforms Group. “The joint work between SK Telecom, Intel, HPE and Samsung will be instrumental in helping SK Telecom implement the latest technologies and new capabilities in a faster and more agile way, ultimately delivering new innovative services to their end users.” 

“We are pleased to be providing telco optimized infrastructure for this collaboration with SK Telecom, Samsung and Intel”, said Claus Pedersen, vice president, Telco Infrastructure Solutions, HPE. “HPE believes that the future of 5G lies in open, interoperable software and hardware innovation from different vendors. This is yet another proof point that HPE is the leading open infrastructure provider for 5G, helping telcos to deploy 5G services faster, on secure telco optimized platforms.”

About SK Telecom

SK Telecom is Korea’s leading ICT company, driving innovations in the areas of mobile communications, media, security, commerce and mobility. Armed with cutting-edge ICT including AI and 5G, the company is ushering in a new level of convergence to deliver unprecedented value to customers. As the global 5G pioneer, SK Telecom is committed to realizing the full potential of 5G through ground-breaking services that can improve people’s lives, transform businesses, and lead to a better society.

SK Telecom says they have attained unrivaled leadership in the Korean mobile market with over 30 million subscribers, which account for nearly 50 percent of the market. The company now has 47 ICT subsidiaries and annual revenues approaching KRW 17.8 trillion.

References:

https://www.samsung.com/global/business/networks/insights/press-release/sk-telecom-and-samsung-forms-global-cooperation-for-5g-nfv-technology-evolution/

For more information, please contact skt_press@sk.com or visit our Linkedin page www.linkedin.com/company/sk-telecom.

 

Samsung Electronics wins $6.6B wireless network equipment order from Verizon; Galaxy Book Flex 5G

Samsung Electronics said on Monday it had won a $6.64 billion order to provide wireless communication solutions to Verizon in the United States, a major win for the South Korean firm in the next-generation 5G network market.  Samsung’s local unit Samsung Electronics America signed the agreement with Verizon Sourcing, a subsidiary of Verizon Communications, to offer network products for the wireless carrier through the end of 2025. This includes providing, establishing and maintaining the company’s 5G mobile telecom equipment.

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Sidebar:  Nokia on the sidelines:

Nokia’s biggest customer is Verizon, JP Morgan research said in a July note to clients.  Yet Nokia didn’t win any part of the new Verizon 5G order. That was predicted by Rosenblatt analyst Ryan Koontz, who said in July “Samsung will “leapfrog Nokia to secure one of the largest new supplier telecom contracts in many years.”

Nokia wrote in an email, “We do not comment on our customers’ vendor strategy. Nokia is proud to serve Verizon, and we are committed to continuing to help them build the best, most reliable and highest performing network. Nokia and Verizon have a longstanding strategic partnership in key technologies across their network with our end-to-end solutions portfolio.”

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Samsung’s global prospects for its network business have improved following U.S. sanctions on its bigger rival Huawei , analysts said.  The Trump administration last month unveiled plans to auction off spectrum previously dedicated to military purposes for commercial use starting in mid-2022, to ramp up fifth-generation network coverage in the United States. In July, the UK ordered Huawei equipment to be purged completely from its 5G network by the end of 2027, adding it needs to bring in new suppliers like Samsung Electronics and Japan’s NEC Corporation.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg told CNBC in July last year that Verizon does not use any Huawei equipment. Verizon had already been a Samsung customer before the order. Vestberg’s statement about no Huawei gear is not true, as Light Reading and other websites noted on Friday.

The FCC requested information about “the presence or use of Huawei or ZTE equipment and/or services in their networks, or in the networks of their affiliates or subsidiaries.”

The FCC’s goal is to determine how many US companies use equipment from Huawei or ZTE – the equipment has been deemed a threat to national security – and how much it might cost to replace that gear with equipment from “trusted” suppliers.

On Friday, the FCC published a list of companies that reported they have existing Huawei or ZTE equipment and services.

Three of the nation’s five biggest wireline phone providers (Verizon, CenturyLink and Windstream) have admitted to having equipment from Huawei or ZTE, according to Leichtman Research Group.

“Verizon’s networks do not include equipment from any untrusted vendors. In addition, the company is not seeking funds from the FCC to replace equipment,” a Verizon representative wrote in response to questions from Light Reading. “Verizon has a relatively small number of devices, called VoiceLink, which were made by Huawei and are used by some customers to make voice calls. There are no data services associated with these devices. Earlier this year, Verizon started replacing these units. That effort was temporarily halted by the pandemic and is now underway again. We expect to have all Voicelink devices fully retired by the end of the year.”

“Samsung winning the order from Verizon would help the company expand its telecom equipment business abroad, potentially giving leverage to negotiate with other countries,” Park Sung-soon, an analyst at Cape Investment and Securities told Reuters.

The order is for network equipment, a Samsung spokesman said. The company declined to comment on detailed terms the contract such as the portion of 5G-capable equipment included.

Verizon joined with Samsung long before 5G made its debut in smartphones last spring. In early 2018, the two firms teamed up for trial runs of 5G-powered home internet. Verizon officials have previously pledged not to use Huawei for its next-generation rollout. Samsung has supplied some network gear for prior generations including 4G LTE.

To Samsung, the deal represents a major 5G win. The contract, valued at 7.898 trillion South Korean won over five years, compares with the roughly 5 trillion won Samsung’s network business racked up in revenue in all of 2019.

Last year, 5G represented less than half of Samsung’s network business, of which U.S. carriers accounted for 10%, said S.K. Kim, a Seoul-based analyst with Daiwa Securities.

“With this latest long-term strategic contract, we will continue to push the boundaries of 5G innovation to enhance mobile experiences for Verizon’s customers,” Samsung said in a statement.

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Sidebar —  Telecom Equipment Vendor Market Shares:

Samsung had a 3% market share of the global total telecom equipment market in 2019, behind No. 1 Huawei with 28%, Nokia’s 16%, Ericsson’s 14%, ZTE’s 10% and Cisco’s 7%, according to market research firm Dell’Oro Group.

Among 5G network sales, Samsung ranks No. 4 with about 13% of the total market, according to market research firm Dell’Oro Group. It trails the top three, which include China’s Huawei Technologies Co. and the European firms Ericsson AB and Nokia Corp.

Huawei said early this year that it had signed more than 90 5G contracts, and Ericsson last month touted its 100th 5G “commercial agreement.” Samsung hasn’t divulged how many 5G contracts it has signed. But it has high hopes, having invested more than $30 billion in the U.S. market alone.

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Separately, Samsung announced the Galaxy Book Flex 5G, an adaptable, 5G-powered addition to its premium laptop line.   Galaxy Book Flex 5G is powered by the new 11th Gen Intel® Core™ processor with Intel® Iris® Xe graphics offering intelligent performance and powerful processing for impressive productivity and stunning entertainment, along with Wi-Fi 6 and 5G connectivity for an unparalleled laptop experience.

“Across the world, we’re being asked to adapt and change constantly, and it’s vital we have devices that move with us,” said Mincheol Lee, Corporate VP and Head of New Computing Biz Group at Samsung Electronics. “Thanks to our close collaboration with Intel, Galaxy Book Flex 5G provides users with a powerful performance, next-generation connectivity, effortless productivity and premium entertainment features, all in the form function of their choosing.”

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References:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/business/samsung-electronics-wins-us-6-7-billion-verizon-order-for-13087716

Tech Mahindra: “We can build and run an entire 4G and 5G or any enterprise network”

India based IT services provider Tech Mahindra says it has the capability to build and run an entire 4G or 5G network in India.  The company’s  partnership with Japanese greenfield telco Rakuten will help it get more meaningful business in India’s telecom industry, a senior executive said.

“We can build and run an entire 4G and 5G or any enterprise network. We have done that already. We bring to the table our ability to design, to plan, to integrate and deploy and then to manage the entire suite of network capabilities, including designing various parts to it in a disaggregated world,” Manish Vyas – President, Communications, Media & Entertainment Business, and the CEO, Network Services, Tech Mahindra, told the Economics Times of India.

In August, the company announced German telecoms company Telefonica Deutschland  had selected it for its network and services operations, in addition to further developing 5G, artificial intelligence, and machine learning use cases.

“We are pleased to announce this partnership with Tech Mahindra. We are supported by a globally experienced service provider to consistently drive forward the development of our network and services operations, thus leading to further enhancement of 5G, artificial intelligence and data analysis use cases,” said Mallik Rao, Chief Technology & Information Officer of Telefonica Deutschland.

“This strategic partnership strengthens our long-standing relationship with Telefonica, in which we support the company in realizing its vision of becoming the ‘Mobile Customer and Digital Champion’ by 2022,” said Vikram Nair, President, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) of Tech Mahindra.

In October 2019, the company launched a 5G enabled Factory of the Future solutionNilesh Auti, Global Head Manufacturing Industry unit, Tech Mahindra, said:

“Factory equipment holds a great deal of meaningful data which is key to any successful Industry 4.0 project. Tech Mahindra’s solution in partnership with Cisco, will enable us to leverage this data and empower manufacturers to build factories of the future. As part of our TechMNxt charter we are focused on leveraging 5G technologies to address our customer’s evolving and dynamic needs, and enable them to RISETM.”

Tech Mahindra is also looking for strategic investments and acquisition in companies to further bolster its telecom product and services portfolio. The company says the following about their 5G capabilities and experience:

TechMahindra provides range of services that enable enterprises to establish private wireless network to span areas of operations & enable a plethora of IoT use cases. Our services remove inefficiencies related to slow, insufficient wireless connectivity & have a strong roadmap to support growing traffic demands for 5G establishment. From media to medicine we believe 5G is “The NXT of Everything.”

Accomplishments listed are these:

  • 1M+ carrier grade cellular sites designed, delivered and managed
  • Enabling 3 of the first 5 carrier 5G introductions in the world
  • Strong Telco partnership/reach (80+ Global Tier 1 Telcos)
  • 4 smart cities projects launched, Largest WIFI deployments in the world
  • 5 connected vehicles engagements, 40+ Connected factories, 12000+ factory Assets
  • 600+ Turbines and 100+ aircrafts connected; 2000+ remote healthcare patients supported

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References:

https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/tech-mahindra-says-can-build-and-run-full-fledged-4g-and-5g-networks/77947328

https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/tech-mahindra-inks-5g-use-case-partnership-with-telefonica-deutschland/77629815

https://www.techmahindra.com/en-in/techmnxt/techbets/5g/

https://www.techmahindra.com/en-in/techmahindra-launches-5g-enabled-solution-to-build-wireless-and-secure-factory-of-the-future/

Verizon Trials Quantum Key Distribution for Encryption over Fiber Optic Links

Verizon has begun testing quantum key distribution (QKD) [1.], a new encryption method that uses photon properties to protect subscriber data. The company says they are the first U.S. carrier to do so, although AT&T is also exploring quantum computing applications in partnership with the California Institute of Technology.  Verizon  said it sent encrypted streaming video from a 5G Lab to two East Coast offices.

Note 1.  Unlike number-based encryption methods used today, QKD creates keys based on the quantum properties of photons, making it much harder for even advanced computing systems to crack.  QKD could be applied to exchange a key between the two ends of a communication. QKD provides protection against the threat posed by quantum computing to current cryptographic algorithms and provides a high level of security for the exchange of data.

An article by ITU-T SG13 chair Leo Lehmann, PhD, described new ITU-T Recommendations related to IMT 2020 and Quantum Key Distribution.   ITU-T SG13 has published two new recommendations for networks to support quantum key distribution (QKD) [1] :

  • Y.3800 (Y.QKDN_FR) Overview on networks supporting quantum key distribution
  • Y.3801 (Y.QKDN_req) Functional requirements for quantum key distribution networks

Y.3800 describes the basic conceptual structures of QKD networks as the first of a series of emerging ITU standards on network and security aspects of quantum information technologies. SG13 standards for QKD networks – networks of QKD devices and an overlay network – will enable the integration of QKD technology into large-scale ICT networks.

Complementing these activities, ITU-T SG17 standards provide recommendations for the security of these QKD networks.

Quantum Cryptography Demystified: How It Works in Plain Language - ExtremeTech

Image depicting Quantum Cryptography

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Verizon is exploring a the physics of the ultrasmall could help protect encrypted network connections. “A QKD network derives cryptographic keys using the quantum properties of photons to prevent against eavesdropping,” Verizon said. It’s also using a quantum random number generator to continuously generate encryption keys.

In the trial, Verizon said it used QKD to encrypt and send a video stream between its 5G Lab and two of its offices in Virginia and Washington DC.  Specifically, live video was captured outside of three Verizon locations in the D.C. area, including the Washington DC Executive Briefing Center, the 5G Lab in D.C and Verizon’s Ashburn, Virginia office.

Using a QKD network, quantum keys were created and exchanged over a fiber optic network between Verizon’s locations.  Video streams were encrypted and delivered more securely allowing the recipient to see the video in real-time while instantly exposing hackers. A QKD network derives cryptographic keys using the quantum properties of photons to prevent against eavesdropping.

Though the test was conducted over its fiber network, a Verizon representative told Mobile World Live the operator is also aiming to use the technology in their mobile networks.

Verizon also demonstrated that data could be further secured with keys generated using a Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG) that, as the name suggests, creates random numbers that can’t be predicted. With QKD, encryption keys are continuously generated and are immune to attacks because any disruption to the channel breaks the quantum state of photons, which signals that eavesdroppers are present.

“The use of quantum mechanics is a great step forward in data security,” said IDC Analyst Christina Richmond, in a statement. “Verizon’s own tests, as well other industry testing, have shown that deriving ‘secret keys’ between two entities via light photons effectively blocks perfect cloning by an eavesdropper if a key intercept is attempted.

“Current technological breakthroughs have proven that both the quantum channel and encrypted data channel can be sent over a single optical fiber. Verizon has demonstrated this streamlined approach brings greater efficiency for practical large-scale implementation allowing keys to be securely shared over wide-ranging networks.”

Verizon chief product development officer Nicola Palmer stated the test was part of an effort to “discover new ways to ensure safe networks and communications” for consumers and enterprises.  “Quantum-based technology can strengthen data security today and in the future,” she said.

Verizon outlined additional work focused on 5G security, including tests of a system using AI and machine learning to detect anomalies in the network and analyse cell site performance; network accelerators to mitigate increases in latency caused by security functions; and a credential management system for connected vehicles.

References:

https://www.cnet.com/news/verizon-reveals-quantum-networking-trials/

Verizon trials quantum security

https://www.fiercetelecom.com/telecom/verizon-tunes-up-quantum-technology-trial-to-bolster-security

Quantum Cryptography Demystified: How It Works in Plain Language

New ITU-T SG13 Recommendations related to IMT 2020 and Quantum Key Distribution

 

Cablecos join telcos in winning FCC auction 105 bids in 3550-3650 MHz band; Buildout

Cable companies (aka MSOs) joined Verizon and Dish Network among the top bidders in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) latest auction of cellular spectrum licenses, according to FCC data released Wednesday.  The FCC auction, which began on July 23 and wrapped up on August 25, offered 70 megahertz of Priority Access Licenses (PALs) in the 3550-3650 MHz band. In total, the FCC auction 105 generated $4,585,663,345 from 228 bidders who won a total of 20,625 licenses.

Verizon, the country’s largest cellphone carrier, topped the list with $1.89 billion in winning bids for licenses in the 3.55 gigahertz band, according to the commission.

  • Dish unit Wetterhorn Wireless LLC bid about $913 million.
  • Wireless units of Charter Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc. followed with winning bids of $464 million, $459 million and $213 million, respectively.
  • Cellphone carrier T-Mobile US bid less than $6 million in the auction.
  •  AT&T did not bid.

The FCC said winning bidders have until September 17 to submit a down payment totaling 20 percent of their winning bid(s). Full payment is due by October 1, 2020.

The licenses were considered highly valuable (3.5GHz spectrum) but complicated by a sharing arrangement that allowed some companies to use nearby frequencies without an exclusive license. The military also uses the spectrum band, though radio engineers consider the likelihood of interference from naval radar low in most of the U.S.

3.5 GHz Band Plan

Image Credit: FCC

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A frequency coordinator called a Spectrum Access System (SAS) will assign the specific channel(s) for a particular licensee on a dynamic basis.  Although a Priority Access Licensee may request a particular channel or frequency range from an SAS following the auction, they are not guaranteed a particular assignment, and an SAS may dynamically reassign a PAL to a different channel as needed to accommodate a higher priority Incumbent Access user.  To the extent feasible, an SAS will “assign geographically contiguous PALs held by the same Priority Access Licensee to the same channels in each geographic area” and “assign multiple channels held by the same Priority Access Licensee to contiguous frequencies within the same License Area.”  An SAS may, however, temporarily reassign individual PALs to non-contiguous channels to the extent necessary to protect incumbent users from harmful interference or if necessary, to perform its required functions.

 

Technicians installing a cellular base station.  Photo credit: GEORGE FREY/REUTERS

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Wireless-industry analysts expected Verizon and Dish to be active participants in the most recent auction, which offered 70 megahertz of “priority access” licenses in a band considered useful for ultrafast fifth-generation, or 5G, transmissions. Rival T-Mobile’s purchase of Sprint Corp. this year gave it a treasure trove of wireless licenses that led Verizon to play catch-up in the race to supply customers with more mobile internet data. Satellite-TV operator Dish has spent the past decade amassing its own spectrum licenses for a brand-new wireless network, though the system hasn’t been built.

The entry of regional cable operators suggests that residential broadband providers are eager to offer more service over the air. Charter and Comcast have added hundreds of thousands of smartphone customers over the past year, but their mobile service runs on Verizon’s network outside the home, limiting the cable companies’ profitability. Charter also has tested fixed home broadband service over 3.5 GHz frequencies to lower the cost of stringing wires to far-flung households.

The cable companies’ wireless bets pale next to their regular investments in landline infrastructure, and the latest bids are no guarantee their strategies will shift. Cable companies have made similar wagers on wireless service before withdrawing and selling their holdings back to established cellphone carriers.

Priority Access Licensees must provide substantial service in their license area by the end of the initial license term (<= 10 years).  “Substantial” service is defined as service which is sound, favorable, and substantially above the level of mediocre service which might minimally warrant renewal.  Failure by any licensee to meet this requirement will result in forfeiture of the license without further Commission action, and the licensee will be ineligible to regain it.

The auction results also set the stage for a more expensive auction of C-Band spectrum, another swath of frequencies useful for 5G service. The commission is expected to kick off an auction for those spectrum bands in December.

References:

https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-announces-winning-bidders-35-ghz-band-auction

https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-366624A1.pdf

https://www.fcc.gov/auction/105/factsheet

https://www.wsj.com/articles/cable-satellite-operators-place-new-bets-on-5g-airwaves-11599063412

https://www.techspot.com/news/86623-fcc-generates-more-than-45-billion-latest-wireless.html

Point Topic Analysis: 4G LTE /5G tariffs provided by mobile operators across Europe

Point Topic has compared the average monthly subscription charges and download speeds offered by mobile broadband providers across the EU-28, Norway and Switzerland. All prices are quoted in US dollars at PPP (purchasing power parity) rates to allow for easier comparison.

Overall 4G/5G tariff trends

In Q2 2020, the average monthly charge for residential 4G/5G data services varied from $73.62 (PPP) in Greece to $17.27 (PPP) in Italy.

Figure 1. Average residential 4G/5G monthly tariff in PPP$, Q2 2020

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In some instances, a relatively low average monthly charge comes with high average data cap (Figure 2). For example, this quarter Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands stand out as being at the high end of data allowances but at the low end of monthly charges, providing the best value for money to subscribers. This is reflected in the average cost per GB of data in these countries being among the lowest in Europe (Figure 3).  In Slovakia, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece, on the other hand users pay a high monthly price for very low data allowance.

Figure 3. Average cost per GB of 4G/5G data in PPP$, Q2 2020

One of the factors which complicates comparing mobile broadband services between countries and against fixed broadband services is the fact that some mobile operators do not report bandwidth on their tariffs. Even when they do, the difference between the theoretical maximum bandwidths and the actual ones is much higher for mobile broadband compared to fixed.

Figure 4. Average theoretical downstream speed on residential 4G/5G services, Q2 2020

Nevertheless, Figure 4 shows which countries are investing in higher speed and more advanced networks, including those using the LTE-Advanced technology as well as those which are rolling out 5G. For example, Switzerland was among countries who offered lowest average downstream speeds in Q1 2019, however, after introducing 5G services it offers the second highest average downstream speed of 760Mbps and the top 5G speed of 2Gbps. The average speed in Italy also increased significantly after the 5G launch. The country now offers the highest average downstream speed of 1Gbps having overtaken Switzerland in Q4 2019. Denmark and Austria, among others, offer relatively low bandwidth, while being among the most generous markets in terms of data allowances[1].

[1] It should be noted that Denmark is a special case. The 71Mbps refers to the maximum download speed that the Danish operators are allowed to market after agreement with the consumer ombudsman. In fact, TDC’s theoretical maximum speed in 2018 was 413Mbps.

Regional and country benchmarks

The data will vary at a country level but when comparing the markets of Central & Eastern and Western Europe at a regional level, Western Europe came out on top in terms of the average data allowance with 167GB per month, compared to 116GB in Central & Eastern Europe. At the same time, customers in Western Europe were charged a lower average monthly subscription at $32.95 PPP. In Central & Eastern Europe, the same indicator was $37.26 PPP (Figure 5). Hence, the average cost per GB in Central & Eastern Europe was significantly higher at $0.32 PPP, compared to $0.20 PPP in Western European markets. In terms of downstream speeds, both regions recorded the same average speed of 242 Mbps.

Figure 5. Regional tariff benchmarks for residential 4G/5G services, Q2 2020

Among the selected six mature markets, Sweden stands out in terms of the top average data cap and Italy in terms of the lowest average monthly charge (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Tariff benchmarks for residential 4G/5G services in six major European economies, Q2 2020

The mobile operators in Sweden offer consumers on average 145GB a month while the Netherlands follow with 123GB average allowance. For several quarters in a row the Netherlands offered the highest average monthly charge among the selected six markets but in Q3 2019 the prices dropped significantly, and the country is now the second cheapest with only Italy offering a lower average monthly subscription of $17.27 PPP. The Netherlands offers the lowest average cost per GB, currently at $0.20 PPP, compared to $3.36 PPP in Germany (Figure 7).

 

Figure 7. Average data and cost of 4G/5G services in selected countries, Q2 2020 (in $PPP)

To compare the prices that residential customers pay for unlimited monthly 4G/5G data in various European markets, we selected the countries which offered such tariffs in Q2 2020 (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Entry level monthly charge for unlimited data on residential 4G/5G tariffs, Q2 2020

The entry level unlimited data tariffs in the countries at the high end of the spectrum (Sweden) were 3.5 times higher than those at the low end (Switzerland). However, when customers paid $54.84 PPP for unlimited data in Sweden, they were purchasing 4G services with speeds up to 300Mbps, while in Switzerland they were charged $15.57 (PPP) for the advertised 4G speed of up to 10Mbps.

Country ranking

Comparing countries by using the average cost of mobile broadband subscriptions is a straightforward idea but the variation in entry level versus median and average costs can be significant. To help provide an easy way of comparing directly we have taken the $PPP data on entry level, median and average tariffs, produced rankings and then compared the variance (Table 1).

Table 1. Country scorecard by residential 4G/5G tariffs, Q2 2020

* Countries which now offer 5G

We have included a ‘variance’ column to indicate how different ranks for the different metrics are spread.  We see that the wide spread in Austria, Slovakia and Spain for example is represented by high variance.  At the other end of the scale countries like Poland, Sweden or Croatia rank rather consistently.

Why such market differences between countries?

There is no simple clear-cut explanation as many factors come into play. The length of time after the 4G/5G networks were launched, service take-up, the market shares of ‘standalone’ and of multi-play bundles, the extent of competition from fixed broadband services with comparable bandwidth, the availability and the cost of 4G/5G spectrum, the regulatory pressures to offer mobile broadband services in remote and rural areas as a priority, the demographic characteristics and life-styles of the users and the cord-cutting tendencies will all have influenced the 4G and 5G offerings available in different European markets. A further statistical modelling would provide more insight into these differences.


What Point Topic measured

This analysis is based on more than 800 tariffs from all major mobile broadband providers from the EU-28, Norway and Switzerland. In total, we provide data on 88 operators from 30 countries. We track a representative sample of tariffs offered by each operator, making sure we include the top end, the entry level and the medium level tariffs, which results in a broad range of prices and data allowances.

We use this data to report on pan-European trends in tariffs and bandwidths offered. We also report on regional trends and variations across countries. The data can be used to track changes in the tariffs offered by individual operators as well.

Technologies

We track mobile broadband tariffs provided over 4G LTE and LTE-Advanced technologies. For the sake of brevity, we are referring to both of them as ‘4G LTE’ or sometimes ‘4G’. From Q2 2019, a small number of 5G tariffs are included in our analysis. Countries which offered 5G commercially at the time of our quarterly data collection are marked with an asterisk (*).

Standalone and bundled

We record 4G / 5G tariffs which are offered as SIM only data only, some of which come with a device (a modem). From Q2 2017 onwards we do not track tariffs bundled with tablets. However, we do record multi-play service bundles (mobile broadband plus TV, fixed broadband and/or voice). From this quarter, they are not included in this analysis, only in the tariff database. We track monthly tariffs rather than daily, weekly or pay as you go, and exclude tariffs offered as part of the smartphone purchase.

Residential and business

We record both business and residential mobile broadband tariffs. The analysis in this report is based on residential tariffs.

Currency

To allow for comparison between countries with different living standards, this report refers to the tariffs in $ PPP (purchasing power parity).  The data on PPP conversion rates is provided by the World Bank. The tariffs in our database are also available in local currencies, USD, EUR and GBP.

Notes on methodology

In order to represent the tariffs we collate more efficiently, we have consolidated the tariff benchmark spreadsheets into a single file.  This is available to subscribers to the Mobile Broadband Tariffs service – click here to access the full file.

If there is a particular element that you cannot find, and you wish to have available please contact us on info@point-topic.com.

Coverage and methodology

A full set of mobile broadband tariff data is available for download as part of Point Topic’s Mobile Operator Tariffs Service. The data set contains the most up-to-date end of quarter tariff information including such details as monthly rental, connection speed, data allowance, equipment costs, service features and special offers.

Price comparison issues

This analysis is intended as a general indicator of the trends in 4G/5G service pricing across Europe. There are several additional variables that complicate the process of making a direct comparison of mobile broadband tariffs. They need to be taken into account when making a more in-depth analysis:

  • Device charges: Some 4G/5G monthly tariffs include all charges for devices, for example, routers or dongles, whereas others come with additional one-off (upfront) costs which can be substantial. We include monthly device charges in the total monthly subscription, and it is this figure that is used in the analysis. One-off charges are more difficult to compare as they vary depending on the device and the monthly charge a user is prepared to pay.
  • Bundling: Increasingly, mobile operators are entering the multi-play arena by bundling their mobile broadband services with voice services, fixed broadband and TV. At the moment, the Mobile Broadband Tariffs service provides access to a sample of multi-play bundles from Europe and beyond. Note: although 4G/5G tariffs which come with a device may be regarded as bundles, we refer to them as standalone mobile broadband services as the device such as a modem is regarded as ‘equipment’, in line with our fixed broadband tariff methodology. The analysis presented in the current report only refers to ‘standalone mobile broadband’ tariffs.
  • Data allowances: Some operators offer entry-level services with very low data caps. From
    Q1 2017, the minimum data allowance we include is 1GB per month. In most cases, however, these limits are generous enough for a typical user and, in some cases, even comparable to those offered by fixed broadband providers. An increasing number of tariffs are offered with ‘unlimited’ data usage. To make it possible to include these tariffs in our calculations, we assigned 600GB per month to the unlimited data tariffs.
  • Downstream and upstream speeds: Some operators do not report mobile broadband speeds, not least because they are so variable. Others do, and where this is the case we record the theoretical maximum speed. In reality, the actual average speed can be lower up to 10 times or more. This should be taken into account when comparing 4G LTE services with fixed broadband, for example.

 

References:

http://point-topic.com/free-analysis/4g-5g-tariffs-in-q2-2020/