Google Cloud and Nokia partner to build cloud-native 5G Core and Edge Networking

Google Cloud, Nokia partner to accelerate cloud-native 5G readiness for communication service providers:

  • Google Cloud and Nokia will jointly develop cloud-native 5G core solutions for communication service providers and enterprise customers
  • New partnership will deliver cloud capabilities to the network edge to accelerate enterprise digital transformation

Google Cloud and Nokia today announced a global, strategic partnership to bring new solutions for communications service providers (CSPs) that modernize their network infrastructures, build on a cloud-native 5G Core, and develop the network edge as a business services platform for enterprises.

The agreement, which comes three months after Nokia said it will move its on-premises IT infrastructure to Google Cloud, blends multiple technology platforms and services into a more comprehensive and integrated offering, according to the companies.

Google Cloud and Nokia will work closely to validate, optimize and evolve cloud-native network functions, and the two companies will also co-innovate new solutions that will help CSPs deliver 5G connectivity and services at scale.

Today, global CSPs can unlock new monetization opportunities by driving 5G connectivity and advanced services to enterprise customers at the network edge, to deliver new, digital experiences for consumers. Google Cloud and Nokia will create solutions that bring together Nokia’s 5G operations services and networking capabilities with Google Cloud’s leading technologies in AI, ML and analytics, running on Anthos as a platform for shifting workloads to the network edge, across public and private clouds.

As part of this collaboration, Nokia is supplying its voice core, cloud packet core, network exposure function, data management, signaling, and 5G core. This includes Nokia’s IMPACT IoT Connected Device Platform, which enables automated, zero-touch activation and allows for remote management of IoT devices, as well as Nokia’s Converged Charging solution provides real-time rating and charging capabilities that enable CSPs to capture new revenue opportunities from the 5G economy.

Google Cloud’s Anthos for Telecom will serve as the platform for deploying applications, enabling CSPs to build an ecosystem of services that are deployable anywhere, from the edge of the network, to public clouds, private clouds and carrier networks. Anthos is an open hybrid and multi-cloud application platform that offers telecommunications companies the flexibility to modernize existing applications, build new ones and securely run them on-premises and across multiple clouds.

By delivering cloud-native applications at the edge, businesses can benefit from lower latency and reduce the need for costly, on-site infrastructure, enabling them to transform their businesses in industries such as smart retail, connected manufacturing and digital consumer experiences.

In general, Google Cloud is focusing on three strategic areas to support telecommunications companies:

  • Helping telecommunications companies monetize 5G as a business services platform.
  • Empowering them to better engage their customers through data-driven experiences.
  • Assisting them in improving operational efficiencies across core telecom systems.

In December, Google Cloud announced an ecosystem of over 30 partners that will serve more than 200 partner applications at the edge. Google Cloud has more than 2,000 locations globally where it can help service providers monetize their infrastructures.

Adding Nokia as another partner will help Google Cloud modernize telcos’ infrastructures by tapping into 5G connectivity as well as cloud-native applications and capabilities from the 5G network core to the edge.

Note yet again, there are no standards for 5G Core, let alone a cloud-native version.  In the References below, we list 5G cloud-native core white papers from Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung.

5G

Supporting Quotes:

“Through our partnership we can give customers choice and simplicity in interfacing with Google Cloud and Nokia systems. In many cases, we can provide pre-integrated solutions from Google Cloud and Nokia, which may offer a time-to-market advantage and a more seamless path to 5G for communications service providers,” a Google Cloud spokesperson wrote in response to questions.  “At a high level, our approach to supporting the telecommunications industry will span multiple partnerships, geographies, and technology layers,” the Google Cloud spokesperson said.

George Nazi, VP, Telco, Media & Entertainment Industry Solutions at Google Cloud, said: “Communications service providers have a tremendous opportunity ahead of them to support businesses’ digital transformations at the network edge through both 5G connectivity and cloud-native applications and capabilities. Doing so requires modernized infrastructure, built for a cloud-native 5G core, and we’re proud to partner with Nokia to help the telecommunications industry expand and support these customers.”

Alex Choi, SVP, Strategy and Technology Innovation at Deutsche Telekom, said: “Deutsche Telekom is on a journey to transform to a new open, disaggregated and cloud-native infrastructure with an automated production model. We are therefore excited to see two innovative organizations like Nokia and Google Cloud joining forces to accelerate ecosystem innovation across critical areas like Open RAN and virtual RAN and the cloud-native 5G Core.”

Neil McRae, Chief Architect at BT Group, said: “BT is deploying cloud-native technologies across our platform, creating value for our customers and ensuring they get the best network experience in every aspect of their daily lives, whether at home, on the move or at work. The network and the services that our customers depend upon in their everyday lives can be further enhanced in terms of scalability, reliability, and experience with cloud-native technologies. BT is excited that Google and Nokia are innovating together to help accelerate new, on-demand edge and convergence solutions, creating new possibilities for consumers and enterprises.”

Ron Haberman, CTO of Cloud and Network Services at Nokia, said: “In the past five years, the telecom industry has evolved from physical appliances to virtual network functions and now cloud-native solutions. Nokia is excited to work with Google Cloud in service of our customers, both CSPs and enterprise, to provide choice and freedom to run workloads on premise and in the public cloud. Cloud-native network functions and automation will enable new agility and use-cases in the 5G era.”

References:

https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2021/01/14/2158600/0/en/Google-Cloud-Nokia-partner-to-accelerate-cloud-native-5G-readiness-for-communication-service-providers.html

Nokia 5G Cloud-Native Core

https://www.sdxcentral.com/articles/news/nokia-argues-cloud-native-is-essential-to-5g-core/2019/11/

https://www.sdxcentral.com/articles/news/nokia-links-cloud-native-5g-services-with-google-cloud/2021/01/

Nokia Cloud Packet Core

Google Cloud’s telecommunications Strategy

https://www.ericsson.com/en/digital-services/core-network-automation/guide

https://images.samsung.com/is/content/samsung/p5/global/business/networks/insights/white-paper/cloud-native-5g-core/Cloud-Native-5G-Core-Samsung-5G-Core-Volume-2.pdf

Dell CTO: Enterprise use cases will dominate 5G public and private deployment models

The 5G telecom ecosystem will shift to become more enterprise driven from consumer-focused in 2021 and the fundamental architecture become software-defined, said John Roese, global chief technology officer, Dell Technologies.

“In 2021, we will have true standalone 5G materialize and it will include advanced features. (This author strongly disagrees as there are no standards for 5G SA and there will be no roaming or portability as a result.).

Enterprise use cases will dominate the technical landscape of 5G for both public and private deployment models. (We agree on that point).  The fundamental architecture of 5G (core network) will move away from the telco and shift to a cloud (native) and IT architecture, which will be open and software-defined for the first time,” said Roese recently while briefing the journalists on the technology trends this year. The Dell senior executive said 5G infrastructure ‘needs to be developed in a very different way with software defined architecture.’

5G SA and Non Stand Alone Core Network

Roese said in 2021 and 2022 the industry would see the shift to building edge computing platforms that can run multiple edge experiences and software-defined services on them to solve the edge proliferation problem. “Edge platforms will become major new areas of on-premise IT capacity delivered as both product and as-a-service,” he added.

Dell said 2021 will also be a prominent year for the quantum computing and semiconductor ecosystem.  “This is the year that will enable broader software development ecosystems to experiment with quantum computing. This is the first year that a computer scientist with no prior access to quantum computing can go into a simulator and start to learn the language of quantum,” said Roese.

According to the company, the industry will move from the era of homogeneous compute to an era of heterogeneous compute. This means that homogenous compute like x86 will be highly augmented with domain specific architectures (Accelerators), and semiconductor ecosystems are being reorganized for this domain.

References:

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/telecom-news/5g-infrastructure-will-become-software-defined-ecosystem-to-be-enterprise-driven-dell/articleshow/80248600.cms

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/telecom-news/5g-infrastructure-will-become-software-defined-ecosystem-to-be-enterprise-driven-dell/articleshow/80248600.cms

Mavenir adds “cloud native” technology with new capabilities

Upstart networking software maker Mavenir claims to be the industry’s only end-to-end Network Software Provider and a leader in accelerating software network transformation for communications service providers (CSPs).  The company today has expanded and cloudified its portfolio by announcing four new solutions: WebScale Platform, AI & Analytics, Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) and Digital Enablement Platform, all available now.

With cloud-native applications [1.] and technology innovation in the software space for mobile communications, consistent with Mavenir’s DNA, these solutions support the ongoing cloudification of the mobile networks, to enable CSPs to meet the growing data demands on their networks.

Note 1.  Cloud native is an approach to building and running applications that exploits the advantages of the cloud computing delivery model. The software is built upon independent microservices and can run on a container platform, like Kubernetes.

The term has become a new IT industry buzzword, but it is a totally unproven entity for telecom service providers, especially for 5G core network/ stand alone (SA) functions.  

According to Ericsson, some of the key benefits of cloud native are:

  • Faster TTM (time to market) with increased flexibility and more frequent SW drops
  • Support for continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) of new software.
  • Improved life cycle management (LCM).
  • Improved support and flexibility for distribution of network functions.
  • Substantial improvements of total cost of ownership.

The new 3GPP specification (not a standard!) for 5G Core (5GC) is introducing a service based architecture (SBA), which is designed for cloud native deployment. This will be the new platform for new 3GPP capabilities going forward and very limited efforts will be spent on the old evolved packet core (EPC) going forward.

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Mavenir’s cloud centric approach means moving applications to Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) computing servers and embracing a complete ecosystem with applications in the Cloud (private, hybrid or public), which complement the basic Network Virtualized Functions (NVFs) and bring automation to improve the way operators manage and operate their networks.   In addition, this approach creates more flexibility and agility enabling the introduction of new services not only in the traditional consumer business, but also in the enterprise arena.

Webscale Platform:

Mavenir’s Webscale Platform, which is based on Kubernetes, extends the enterprise IT and webscale platform-as-a-service (PaaS) with telco-specific functions that are open interface and based on open source. The service was developed in conjunction with the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and LF Networking, a Linux Foundation group, which is working on webscale technologies through its XGVela project that targets upper layer services as PaaS functions and is designed to enable more cloud deployments among network operators.

Suresh Somasundaram, SVP of 5G Cloud Platforms at Mavenir explains, “Mobile networks require digital transformation towards webscale platform technology that utilizes open source, Kubernetes platform as a service (PaaS). While a Kubernetes-based platform (PaaS) provides the foundation for fully automated life cycle management, it is built for mainly IT and enterprise applications and requires additional and specialized functions to support telecom and specifically, mobile workloads. To support those types of workloads, Mavenir has developed a common software extending standard opensource PaaS components to support telco needs for webscale deployment and to provide agile delivery of new applications expanding to Performance, Monitoring, Legal Intercept and Security. Mavenir’s WebScale Platform is the solution to give Mobile Operators the webscale agility of the Internet players.”

AI-powered Analytics:

Kuntal Chowdhury, GM, AI & Analytics at Mavenir said, “With the cloudification and automation of the telecom networks, it becomes essential to utilize AI & Analytics solutions in a scalable platform combining real-time and big data analytics based on advanced Machine Learning algorithms. Mavenir’s AI & Analytics platform delivers extensive insights that are mandatory for WebScale network automation, slice management, security and many other use cases defined for the MEC (EdgeAI), RAN intelligence, traffic optimization and security . The AI/ML algorithms are defined with Mavenir’s deep telecom domain expertise, while keeping the interfaces standards-compliant & the platform open for collaborative innovation.”

Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC):

Mavenir is introducing a platform that will enable edge computing within an operator network which it plans to make available later this year.  Mavenir is also working with Nvidia and Mellanox (owned by Nvidia) to allow packet core functionality to be deployed at the edge of the network, and integrating its software development kit with other vendors to benefit specific edge applications in industrial automation, augmented or virtual reality, video surveillance, and autonomous driving.

Ashok Khuntia, GM Cloud Packet Computing says, “Delivering low latency and high bandwidth at the edge of the network promises many exciting applications in 5G. Mavenir’s optimized low-footprint data processing 5G Core platform enables mission critical MEC applications in the areas of Industrial automation, Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, Gaming, Video surveillance, Autonomous driving and others. The additional focus on Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) will accelerate such applications for many different industries and sectors.”

Digital Enablement:

Sandeep Singh, GM, Digital Enablement at Mavenir noted, “Mavenir enables Operators and Enterprises to launch innovative value-based services faster to market with lower upfront investments in capital and time. Mavenir’s Digital Enablement Platform unlocks any network data, sources partner data, and serves up a value-added offering enriched through the platform’s flexible business control functions like Partner/Customer Management, Order Journey-Experience builder, Subscription/Usage Billing, Charging and Settlement. With the design focus on ‘adaptability’, the platform provides customers the agility and flexibility to experiment iteratively and deliver enhanced subscriber engagement experiences, ultimately benefitting in increased market reach and customer stickiness through new revenue generating services.”

“With a modern and secure Webscale platform as a foundation for edge computing, state of the art AI-based Analytics and Customer engagement solutions in our portfolio, Mavenir is a partner of choice for Telcos looking to offer new mission critical network edge solutions, transform network operations and business models for new 5G networks. In addition, Enterprises who need cost efficiency and customization in their connectivity and communication solutions will benefit,” said Bejoy Pankajakshan, Mavenir’s Chief Strategy Officer. “With a worldwide installed base and decades of experience in designing ‘Multi-G’ Telco services, Mavenir now offers its customer a path to realize the true potential of 5G through these new technology solutions.”

Orange CEO Stéphane Richard on 5G: “160 cities lit, 30 more cities to be deployed very soon”

Orange has already activated 5G in 160 cities across France, the operator’s CEO Stéphane Richard said in an interview with local newspaper Jornal du Dimanche (JDD) on Sunday.  Some of the initial cities covered by Orange’s 5G network include Marseille, Nice, Le Mans and Angers.

“We will very soon deploy 5G in 30 other cities, such as Aix-en-Provence, Brest or Toulon,” the executive said.  Also, that  Orange is currently engaged in talks with the Municipality of Paris for the deployment of 5G in the nation’s capital. Richard said that he expected the activation of 5G in Paris to occur during the first quarter of the year.

He also announced that Orange will donate 10,000 SIM cards before the end of January to FAGE, the main student federation.

More importantly, Richard is worried about the causes of the delay in the deployment of 5G in France.  He told the French newspaper:

“We are indeed not really ahead in the deployment of this technology. In addition to basic problems, the chronology of the last months provides an explanation for the recent tensions. 5G indeed became, in the spring of 2019, a campaign theme for the municipal elections, which did not make things easier, on the contrary. While the authorizations had finally been granted to the operators. France is leaving with almost a year and a half late in the deployment of 5G. It is difficult to know today if she will catch up with him.”

France has already authorized 5G in nearly 7,000 municipalities. The  JDD unveils a preview of the National Frequency Agency map of sites in France authorized to transmit in 5G as shown in this image:

Extrait de la carte de la couverture de la France en 5G.

Orange initially launched commercial 5G services in 15 municipalities at the beginning of December 2020. The leading network operator in France will offer 5G in the 3.5 GHz frequency band.  Orange recently obtained 90 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band. The telco said that its upcoming 5G deployment focuses mainly on these new 3.5 GHz frequencies and may be supplemented by the use of 2.1 GHz frequencies.

The operator said it has chosen to initially cover areas that are already heavily used in order to avoid any risk of saturation.  Richard previously said that the company’s 5G deployment will be done gradually and in a constructive dialogue with all local authorities, in parallel with the carrier’s efforts to expand coverage of the French territory in 4G.

The main auction for 3.4-3.8 GHz frequencies for the provision of 5G in France was completed in early October 2020.  In that spectrum auction, local operators Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Iliad committed to pay a total of 2.8 billion euros ($3.4 billion) for a total of 11 blocks of 10 megahertz of spectrum.

Telecom regulator Arcep’s specifications for the 5G auction stipulate that each operator must launch 5G services in at least two cities before the end of 2020. Each carrier should deploy 3,000 sites by 2022, 8,000 sites in 2024 and 10,500 sites by 2025.  Eventually, all of the cell sites must provide a 5G service using frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band or other bands, according to the French regulator.

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What about the ecological risk, in the context of the fight against global warming?
“We have to go back to a little objectivity. Data storage, network infrastructure and equipment manufacturing only represent 4% of greenhouse gas emissions. Of this 4%, 80% of emissions are linked to equipment, from manufacturing to the use of telephones, and only 20% to networks, including data centers. I would remind you that industry is 43%, buildings 26%, while transport represents 25% of emissions. It is therefore wrong to present digital technology as one of the causes of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2. One ton of CO2 spent on digital technology is 10 tons of CO2 that is not used everywhere else.

When you do a video conference, you are not traveling: the ecological impact between a video meeting and a physical meeting is reduced from 1 to 100. When you use connected objects in cities, you have more control over energy consumption.

5G technology is much better from an environmental footprint perspective than 4G. It is ten times more efficient on energy consumption. It would take a particular bad faith not to recognize that digital technology itself is the bearer of a solution, rather than the creator of problems. Personally, obscurantism bothers me a lot.

France is a country of engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs. That the refusal of progress develops there is sad.  You have more control over energy consumption. 5G technology is much better from an environmental footprint perspective than 4G. It is ten times more efficient on energy consumption. It would take a particular bad faith not to recognize that digital technology itself is the bearer of a solution, rather than the creator of problems. Personally, obscurantism bothers me a lot. France is a country of engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs. That the refusal of progress develops there is sad.you have more control over energy consumption. 5G technology is much better from an environmental footprint perspective than 4G. It is ten times more efficient on energy consumption. It would take a particular bad faith not to recognize that digital technology itself is the bearer of a solution, rather than the creator of problems. Personally, obscurantism bothers me a lot. France is a country of engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs. That the refusal of progress develops there is sad.a particular bad faith in not recognizing that digital technology itself is the bearer of a solution, rather than the creator of problems. Personally, obscurantism bothers me a lot. France is a country of engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs. That the refusal of progress develops there is sad.

A particular bad faith in not recognizing that digital technology itself is the bearer of a solution, rather than the creator of problems. Personally, obscurantism bothers me a lot. France is a country of engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs. That the refusal of progress develops there is sad.”

Has the mobile telephone sector engaged in the search for carbon neutrality?  Richard answered:

“As president of the GSMA, the alliance that brings together the majority of operators worldwide, I have pushed the sector to make extremely strong commitments in this area. Neutrality will be achieved in 2050, in accordance with the Paris Agreement. And in 2040 for Orange, that is to say very soon. The telecoms industry is particularly ambitious in this area, contrary to what some argue. Its commitments in terms of reducing carbon emissions are the most drastic of all industrial sectors. At Orange, we are also setting concrete targets to reduce electricity consumption, which remains the main difficulty for networks. In Africa, which represents 10% of the group’s activities, we invest in solar energy. As in Jordan, where our solar farms already cover 70% of our local electricity needs.”

References:

https://www.lejdd.fr/Economie/le-patron-dorange-stephane-richard-sur-le-deploiement-de-la-5g-nous-avons-deja-allume-160-villes-4017345

https://www.lejdd.fr/Societe/5g-le-haut-conseil-pour-le-climat-va-rendre-un-avis-attendu-sur-son-impact-environnemental-4013289

https://www.lejdd.fr/Economie/exclusif-la-carte-de-france-de-la-5g-avec-6886-communes-ou-elle-est-autorisee-4008687

Orange’s 5G network reaches 160 cities across France: report

 

India to start long delayed spectrum auction on March 1st

India is FINALLY set to hold its first spectrum auction for four years on March 1st when it offers up 2,250 MHz of spectrum across seven bands ranging from 700 MHz to 2.5 GHz.  Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea  (Vi) are expected to bid for airwaves worth Rs 3.92 lakh crore at base price. Industry analysts see a muted response, given the strained condition of the telecom sector, and expect the government to generate only Rs 40,000-50,000 crore from the sale.

Editors Note:

One rupee crore, as of 2014, is approximately equivalent to $163,720, using the exchange rate of 61.07 rupees per U.S. dollar. In the south Asian numbering system, a crore is equivalent to 10 million.

lakh is a unit in the Indian numbering system equal to one hundred thousand (100,000; scientific notation: 105).

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The sale will help Reliance Jio renew a chunk of expiring spectrum permits and offer Bharti Airtel and Vi a chance to add to their bandwidth holdings as data usage rises. Experts expect Jio, the only profit-making carrier, to be the main buyer and spend close to Rs 20,000-30,000 crore, followed by Airtel at Rs 10,000-15,000 crore, and Vi pitching in with a few thousand crores by bidding for only some airwaves. The spending will add to the telcos’ debt, making tariff hikes more likely.

ETD-1-07012021

SOURCE:  Economic Times of India

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The main objectives of the auction were to obtain a “market-determined price for the spectrum on offer, ensure efficient use of spectrum and avoid hoarding,” stimulate competition in the sector and maximize revenue proceeds, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) said in the NIA.

The government is putting on sale 660 MHz in the 700 MHz band, 230 MHz in 800 MHz band, 81.4 MHz in 900 MHz band, 313.6 MHz in 1800 MHz band, 175 MHz in 2100 MHz band, 560 MHz in 2300 MHz band and 230 MHz in 2500 MHz band.  Indian telcos have spent nearly Rs 3.7 lakh crore over six spectrum auctions since 2010. But this is the first time there are likely to be only three bidders.

COAI, the industry body that represents the telcos, said the government had addressed the requirement for availability of more spectrum. But lower reserve prices would have provided additional resources for network expansion for the telcos. “High reserve prices (in the past) have resulted in large amounts of spectrum remaining unsold,” said COAI in a statement.

COAI said the auction will enable the industry to cater to the exponential increase in data usage which will facilitate in supporting the Digital India vision. “While the government has addressed the requirement for the availability of more spectrum, lowering the reserve prices would have provided additional resources for network expansion to the telcos. High reserve prices in past auctions have resulted in large amounts of spectrum remaining unsold. We hope the Govt. will take additional measures to boost the financial health of the industry, which is the backbone of a digitally connected India,” COAI DG SP Kochhar said.

In the premium 4G spectrum (700 MHz), Trai had reduced the reserve price by 43% compared to 2016 auctions, at Rs 6,568 crore per MHz, for a pan-India 5 MHz block, still, operators would have to shell out Rs 32,840 crore, which is seen as quite high. In the 2016 auctions, the government had mopped a total amount of Rs 65,789 crore, 4% over the reserve price, from the country’s six operators who participated in the bidding. However, this was a lukewarm response as only 965 MHz spectra got sold against a total of 2,353 MHz put up on sale, meaning that only 40% got sold.

According to analysts, Reliance Jio may be the only buyer of some airwaves in the premium 700 MHz band, with its rivals likely giving it a miss, despite a 43% cut in the base price from the 2016 sale, when they went unsold. This band alone is valued at Rs 2.3 lakh crore, with the rest of the bands worth Rs 1.62 lakh crore, at base price, according to brokerage Motilal Oswal.

While the NIA has clauses to factor in new entrants, including foreign players, industry experts say it’s unlikely that any new player will join the fray, given the dire state of the industry with debt of over Rs 8 lakh crore, weak pricing power and only one profit-making telco.

“Jio will focus on 800 MHz for renewal and adding capacity as its market share increases. Vi may look at optimization of spectrum since it has surplus airwaves in the 1800 MHz while Airtel will look at 1800 MHz as well,” said Rajiv Sharma, a telecom expert. “…this auction will further add to the operators’ debt, which in turn gets them closer to tariff hikes.”

The base rate of airwaves in the efficient 800 MHz band was pegged at Rs 4,745 crore a unit, which is around 20% less than the previously recommended minimum of Rs 5,819 crore a unit for 2016. The starting price for 1800 MHz spectrum though was set higher at Rs 3,291 crore a unit, compared with Rs 2,873 crore a unit previously.

A substantial portion of Jio’s own airwaves and those it shares with Reliance Communications in the 800 MHz band expires in 12 and 14 circles, respectively, starting July 2021. Without these airwaves, Jio’s services in these circles will be impacted, making it imperative that the telco bid for them, analysts said.   Jio, with over 406 million subscribers, also needs additional airwaves to cater to surging data demand and a rapidly growing user base that it expects to touch 500 million.

Airtel and Vi – with about 294 and 272 million users, respectively – own less expensive spectrum, mostly in the 1800 MHz band, set to expire across eight circles each from July. Both of those telcos have backup airwaves in most service areas. Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal has previously said that the company will look mainly for for sub-1 GHz spectrum.

For spectrum which isn’t immediately available and which will be assigned beyond one month of the close of this auction, the component of the upfront payment payable will be 10% of the bid amount for sub-1 GHz bands, and 20% of the bid amount for other bands. “…and the balance component of upfront payment (total of which is 25% for sub-1 GHz and 50% for other bands) shall be made one month prior to the ‘effective date’,” the DoT said.

References:

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/telecom/telecom-policy/spectrum-auction-to-start-on-march-1/articleshow/80133307.cms

https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/government-to-hold-spectrum-auction-on-march-1/2165852/4

India ramps up supply chain for 5G service launch in 2021 pending spectrum auction

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/12/28/economic-times-indias-big-bet-on-5g-in-2021-starts-with-5g-spectrum-auction/

 

European Court of Auditors Concern: EU’s Divergent Approach to Security of 5G Networks

EU nations are ‘progressing at different paces’ in terms of cyber security protocols introduced by the European Commission in order to ensure the safety of next-generation telecommunications networks, the European Court of Auditors has said.

The news comes at the beginning of a year-long probe into the EU’s security of 5G networks by auditors, while the European Commission has also confirmed to EURACTIV that nations across the bloc have missed deadlines set out in law, which had bound countries to assign 5G spectrum frequencies by the end of 2020.

Auditors say their research has already unearthed evidence of a divergent approach to 5G security across member states [1.], as well as differences in deployment timelines for the technology across the continent.  As part of a series of measures unveiled by the Commission in their 2020 5G Toolbox, member states were tasked with assessing the risk profile of telecom providers, with a view to applying restrictions for those vendors considered to be high-risk.

Note 1.  Of course, there is an inconsistent approach to 5G security as there are no standards for same from ITU and the 3GPP Release 16 specs for 5G Security are incomplete (delayed to Release 17).  That was all described in this IEEE Techblog post.

The toolbox highlighted that “a particular threat stems from cyber offensive initiatives of non-EU countries,” in a veiled reference to Chinese telecommunications providers Huawei and ZTE.

“Several member states have identified that certain non-EU countries (China?) represent a particular cyber threat to their national interests based on previous modus operandi of attacks by certain entities or on the existence of an offensive cyber program of a given third state against them,” the toolbox adds.

A progress report on the plans in July pressed member states to make ‘urgent progress’ on mitigating the risks to 5G telecommunications networks posed by certain high-risk suppliers.

Speaking on Thursday (7 January 2021), the European Court of Auditors’ Paolo Pesce, part of the team conducting the 12-month review, said harmonization across the bloc on such security standards had not happened yet.  “Member states have developed and started implementing necessary security measures to mitigate risks,” Pesce said. “But from the information gathered so far, member states seem to be progressing at a different pace as we implement this measure.”

Annemie Turtelboom, the ECA member leading the audit, added that the report will seek to probe the trade-off EU nations seem to be making with regards to security and speed of deployment.

“The coronavirus crisis has made electronic communications including mobile communications even more vital for the citizens and businesses while making it more difficult to timely prepare authorization procedures so that several member states have recently expressed their intention to delay their national spectrum auction procedures,” a spokesperson told EURACTIV.

“The Commission will follow the matter closely and take any difficulty into consideration considering the impact of the current public health crisis.”

However, it appears that the security concerns of contracting various suppliers have been just as relevant in the delays as has the coronavirus pandemic.

In one recent example, Sweden had to sideline auctions for its 3.4-3.6 GHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz bands, after telecoms regulators PTS prohibited the use of equipment from Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE.  Earlier this week, Huawei announced that it had lodged an appeal to the supreme administrative court for being frozen out of the auctions.

By mid-December, member states, including the UK, had assigned on average only 36.1% of the 5G pioneer bands, the European Commission informed EURACTIV.  Under the 2018 Electronic Communications Code, all spectrum in the 700MHz band should have been awarded by June 30, 2020, with allocations of 3.6GHz and 26GHz airwaves wrapped up by December 31, 2020.

References:

EU nations divided on 5G security, auditors say

Auditors to probe EU’s 5G network plans

Commission presses member states to take action on high-risk 5G vendors

5G Security Vulnerabilities detailed by Positive Technologies; ITU-T and 3GPP 5G Security specs

 

Verizon realizes operational efficiencies as massive cost cutting continues; 4G-LTE Home (Fixed Wireless Access)

Speaking at the Citi 2021 Global TMT investor conference on January 5, 2021, Verizon executive Ronan Dunne said the telco’s operational efficiency has continued to increase, largely due to cutting $10 billion in costs, which was first announced four years ago by then CEO Lowell McAdam.

Dunne said Verizon has been reaping billions of dollars every year in operational efficiencies from the core of how it builds network to the efficient way it carries traffic on that network with its One Fiber strategies. Verizon’s One Fiber project, which has been underway for five years, combined all of the telco’s fiber needs and planning into one project. It also allows Verizon to plot out its fiber uses cases and purchasing plans across all of its sectors.

“But as regards (to) the focus of operational efficiency, it’s a ruthless, consistent focus inside the business in exactly the same way as balance sheet strength has always been a watchword of Verizon. And so rest assured those will continue to be as important in ’21 and ’22 as they have been in the last few years.”

Regarding cost cutting, Dunne had this to say: “So yes, Matt (Verizon CFO Matt Ellis) has talked about our commitment to a $10 billion cost program, and we’ve made excellent progress on that. But in my time in the wireless business originally and then consumer, we’ve made significant strides. We’re talking about billions of dollars every year in operational efficiencies. From — right from the core of how we build the network, to be highly, highly efficient, how we carry traffic on the network with our One Fiber strategies to how we serve customers and deliver experiences. And across all of those vectors, we see continued opportunity.”

In addition to densification of the wireless network, backhaul and fronthaul, and enabling wireline access, having fiber deep is key for supporting radio access networks (RAN) as well as provisioning an increasing number of small cells.  Verizon CTO Kyle Malady built the telco’s Intelligent Edge Network, which has allowed Verizon to lower its operational costs by benefiting “from efficiencies within the core and right through the business.”

“The particular area that I’m focused on in my part of the business is really AI at scale,” Dunne said. “That really allows us to improve our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) efficiency. So the efficiency of every dollar invested in acquisition and retention. Also the efficiency of every dollar invested in those elements that are customer service elements, and distribution elements,” he added.

Dunne opined that when you think about Verizon you recognize its network as a platform, it’s distribution as a platform and it’s billing and services platforms.  He believes the opportunity to improve the efficiency of those platforms through investment in technology.

He also talked about the relationships with Microsoft and AWS for edge computing as a new platform capability that’s available both to us internally but also available to customers and partners. “So that’s the strategy. So we see the opportunity to grow highly efficiently as well as serve the existing base more efficiently and lots more to come there.”

“I’m not building a fixed wireless access network,” said Dunne, expressing a bit of frustration regarding a question of whether the company is on target to hit that 30 million homes passed goal. “I’m building a 5G mobility network with a second use case where it’s appropriate, where it covers 5G Office and 5G Home, so we just shouldn’t lose sight of that.”

Dunne says that he believes they are still on track, but the reality on the ground has Verizon constantly updating its 5G mobility strategy of where and how the service gets deployed. That reality impacts the ramp up of 5G Home, potentially slowing its deployment. The service is currently in 12 markets, with very limited footprints in those markets.

Verizon’s recently launched 4G LTE Home fixed wireless service (intended for rural subscribers) should also be included in a discussion of the company’s overall fixed wireless goals. The carrier’s 5G Home service and the goals associated with it pre-date the launch of the new 4G LTE based fixed wireless service, that Verizon initially said would target smaller markets.

Image Credit: Getty

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“One of the other things that I think is important for people to think about is that as we build out the 5G network, we’ve also built 4G Home and we’ve seen significant response to that,” said Dunne. “My addressable market for Home, for me, has always been not limited to the specific of a 5G fixed wireless, but a broader ambition to be able to participate in the home.”

4G LTE fixed wireless access offers peak speeds of 50 Mbps for now, compared to its 5G Home service which claims average speeds of 300 Mbps. Nevertheless, Dunne sees this broader footprint of 4G and 5G fixed wireless combined with mobility, as a formidable competitor to cable broadband, and its fixed wireless homes passed goal attainment should be agnostic to the underlying wireless technology.

Can 5G fixed wireless access be an alternative to cable?

“Well, then my strong view is, yes, it can. But to be clear, we only build where there’s a mobility case to build. We’re not building a stand-alone 5G fixed wireless network. So sometimes when respectfully, people get frustrated with us and say, well, hold on a second. What about — I want to see all your discrete reporting of 5G fixed wireless or why aren’t you there or there or there? The answer, which — forgive me, but I keep repeating is because I’m not building a fixed wireless access network. I’m building a 5G mobility network with a second use case, where it’s appropriate, where it covers 5G office and 5G home. So we shouldn’t lose sight of that.

So as I build over that sort of 7-, 8-year horizon, one of the realities is that I will be updating my mobility deployment patterns all the time. So we’re not really — we’re not saying that, that sort of 7, 8 years for the 30 million homes time line is shifting. But what I am saying is we continue to optimize the mobility 5G deployment strategy. And as a result, we continue to finesse and update the practicalities of that relative to the homes past. But one of the other things that I think is important for people to think about is that as we build out the 5G network, we’ve also built 4G home, and we’ve seen significant response to that. And yes, that’s a maybe a 50 meg product rather than a 500 meg product. But for a lot of people, that’s important. And that also affords us this opportunity that as we build out 5G, as we put more nodes in place, but also as we put more carriers out there, deploy more spectrum, et cetera, we have this ability to build a home portfolio, which is carrier — basically bearer-agnostic. And I think the thing for us is that we see the opportunities to participate in tens of millions of homes across the U.S. as really attractive.

What I want to do is have toolkit that says, in my Fios footprint, if fiber is the right thing to do, great. If anywhere in the U.S. 5G ultra-wideband is available to me, I have that. And in other places, I have my 4G increasingly enhanced performance in that network, which may ultimately be a 5G nationwide solution. So my addressable market for home for me has always been not limited to the specific of a 5G fixed wireless but a broader ambition to be able to participate in the home and to bring the scale benefits of that to my customers who see Verizon as the partner of choice.”

We think we have a very strong growth opportunity, which is stimulate the base, spread through our network and distribution as
a platform, our access to the market across all of the available segments and really execute on a very strong, high performance, both network, but also a set of experiences….

References:

https://www.verizon.com/about/investors/citi-2021-global-tmt-west-virtual-conference

https://www.verizon.com/about/sites/default/files/2021-01/Citi-Conf-Transcript-01052021.pdf

https://www.fiercetelecom.com/telecom/verizon-closes-its-10-billion-cost-cutting-goal

https://www.telecompetitor.com/verizon-consumer-ceo-hedges-a-bit-on-5g-home-fixed-wireless-aspirations-looks-to-4g/

https://www.pcmag.com/news/verizon-launches-unlimited-4g-home-internet-for-rural-users-here-are-the

5G in South Korea at 15.5% of mobile subscribers vs 30% expected by end of 2020

South Korea has racked up a considerable 5G user base since the networks’ commercialization in April 2019 — 10.9 million subscribers as of end-November, accounting for around 15.5 percent of the total 70 million mobile subscriptions.  SK Telecom had the most 5G subscriptions in November at 5.1 million, followed by KT at 3.3 million and LG Uplus at 2.5 million.

The average 5G user consumed 26 gigabytes of data in November, according to government data. A recent South Korea ministry report found that the country’s 5G networks had an average 5G download speed reaching 690.47 Mbps, just over four times faster than current 4G LTE speeds.

                                     Graph Credit: RootMetrics

Median download speeds shown above reflect combined 4G and 5G speeds; pure 5G connections are faster.  

RootMetrics’ says South Korean “blueprint” for rapid 5G success is based on several factors. Two of the three South Korean carriers are using 100MHz of 5G bandwidth, and the third uses 80MHz, all around the “mid band” 3.5GHz frequency.  Contrast that with U.S. carriers which have struggled for regulatory reasons to get access to both mid band spectrum and similarly large spectrum blocks.

The South Korean carriers have also been able to deploy plenty of network hardware across South Korean cities and have seen relatively little performance degradation indoors compared with outdoors, unlike early U.S. 5G millimeter wave deployments. In other words, the key to performant 5G is widely deployed mid band networking gear, which a major domestic vendor and government coordination can make considerably easier.

South Korea has benefited significantly from the availability of Samsung 5G networking hardware and devices.  RootMetrics expects that the belated launches of 5G-compatible iPhones could encourage other countries and carriers to achieve parity with the current 5G leader, as global demand for 5G will be driven at least as much by consumer devices as industrial applications. The report suggests that the one-year pace of the performance uptick “suggest[s] that networks in other countries could follow suit, which would level the worldwide 5G playing field” despite the “commanding lead” South Korea currently holds.

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User migration from 4G LTE to 5G has fallen short of expectations, prompting competitive pay plans by the three carriers.  The companies had initially shot for 5G subscriptions to account for up to 30 percent of their mobile users by the end of last year.  A recent Korea ministry report found that the country’s 5G networks had an average 5G download speed reaching 690.47 megabits per second (Mbps), just over four times faster than current 4G LTE speeds.

Carriers are still betting on the lower prices to give the shove the local 5G market needs for faster migration.  LG Uplus Corp. said Tuesday it will release a new monthly data plan, offering 6 gigabytes of data at 5G speeds for 47,000 won (US$43), following rival carrier KT Corp., which also launched late last year a monthly 5G plan at 45,000 won for 5 gigabytes of data.   The new data plans are relatively more affordable than most existing 5G data plans that cost over 50,000 won a month.

“By creating low-to-mid priced plans, we hope to both reduce telecommunication costs and expand the 5G market,” an LG Uplus official said.

SK Telecom Co., the country’s largest carrier, has also lowered the price of its 5G data plans, pending government review.

SK Telecom, KT Corp. and LG Uplus are currently preparing to commercialize 5G stand alone networks and 5G millimeter wave.

In July of 2020, the big three Korean mobile operators agreed to invest a total of KRW 25.7 trillion ($22 billion) through 2022 to boost 5G infrastructure across the country.  That  investment primarily focuses on enhancing 5G quality in Seoul and six other metropolitan cities. The investment plan also stipulates the deployment of 5G in 2,000 multi-purpose facilities, on Seoul Metro lines 2 and 9 and along major highways. In 2021, the carriers committed to expand 5G connectivity to an additional 85 districts, including 4,000 multi-purpose facilities, subways and all train stations, as well as 20 additional highways.

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Samsung Electronics Co. is expected to remain the world’s top smartphone producer this year, according to a report by according to market researcher TrendForce.  However, the company’s market share is likely to decrease as other brands will ramp up production with the recovery of mobile demand.

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India ramps up supply chain for 5G service launch in 2021 pending spectrum auction

There is excitement about the anticipated launch of 5G telecom services in India, but the government’s spectrum pricing strategy may be a damper. While the evolving ancillary segments are working on the backbone infrastructure for the 5G roll-out following Reliance Industries Ltd chairman Mukesh Ambani’s assurance that Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd will launch 5G wireless service in the second half of 2021, experts, however, said that India is not 100% ready.

India telecom equipment company Sterlite Technologies Ltd (STL) said India has been developing 5G infrastructure, but a pan-India roll out will require improving the device, spectrum, wireless and fiber optic ecosystem. “India has the capability of rolling out 5G as we have been building the infrastructure for years now. However, for a countrywide end-to-end deployment, India is not 100% ready… At STL, we will start commercial deployment of open-RAN (open radio access) that is required for 5G by second half of 2021,” said Anand Agarwal, group chief executive at STL.  The primary impact of 5G roll-out will be on the commercial ecosystem.  According to Agarwal, global supply chains have already matured and are 5G-ready, which makes it easier to import raw material (this author finds that very difficult to believe).

Experts said stressed financials of Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Idea Ltd (Vi) could discourage them to participate in the 5G launch, in view of the costs involving fiberization and the pricing of spectrum. Airtel and Vi are sitting on massive debts but continue to offer among the lowest tariffs in the world. The telcos have also called for affordable spectrum.

Analysts said the spectrum auction in March may see limited participation from Airtel and Vi due to high reserve prices. Jio, however, is likely to buy spectrum in the 700 megahertz (MHz) band, which is best suited for 5G.

Meanwhile, phone makers have also started producing 5G devices too. Faisal Kawoosa, the founder of techARC, said that India imported nearly two million 5G smartphones in 2020. “While most of these were in ultra-premium range, this year, any new smartphone priced above 30,000 should support 5G,” Kawoosa said, adding that 7-9% of all smartphones sold in India in 2021 are likely to support 5G, making it nearly four times the imports.  However, will those so called “5G” users actually get 5G service, especially when roaming?

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The big 3 Indian telcos are likely to voice their concerns to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) as the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP-2018) has not been updated by the department’s wireless planning cell (WPC) more than a year after several new airwave bands, including the 26 Ghz spectrum, were identified by the ITU-R WRC 19 for 5G deployments worldwide, including in India.

The NFAP is a central policy roadmap that defines future spectrum usage by all bodies in the country, including DoT, the Department of Space and the defence ministry. Telcos want it revised quickly as any further delay could potentially hinder the auctioning of the premium millimetre-wave 5G bands.

“The NFAP-2018 needs to be revised expeditiously by the WPC to align different stakeholders if a meaningful 5G auction is to happen later this year, and the industry will take up the matter with DoT,” a senior industry executive told ET.

In November 2019, WRC-19 identified a set of new airwaves, including the 24.25-27.5 Ghz (popularly known as the 26 Ghz band), 37-43.5 Ghz, 45.5-47 Ghz, 47.2-48.2 Ghz and 66-71 Ghz bands for 5G services. However, none of these bands (primarily the mm waves) have been included in India’s NFAP.  Note also that ITU-R WP5D has not yet agreed on a revision of ITU-R M.1036  which would include the new frequency arrangements agreed during WRC 19 for terrestrial IMT deployments.

References:

https://www.livemint.com/industry/telecom/industry-ramps-up-supply-chain-for-5g-service-launch-in-21-11609726923530.html

https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/telcos-to-push-dot-to-release-new-5g-spectrum-band/80085441