STC Bahrain [1.] has announced the launch of the first 5G standalone (SA) core network in the kingdom using Huawei network equipment. It will enable new communication services for consumers and enterprises such as high-resolution video, VR, AR, multimedia and online data communication.
The 5G standalone network will support the three ITU-R 5G Use Cases — enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC) and Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC) services. It will enable services in the public security, transportation, banking, consumer services, manufacturing, petroleum, port, healthcare and education sectors, among others.
Standalone 5G supports multi-access edge computing (MEC) and uplink-centric broadband connectivity for both B2B and B2C services, STC said.
STC and Zain have deployed commercial 5G SA networks in Saudi Arabia, while STC has also launched 5G SA in Kuwait.
Note 1. STC Bahrain is a telecommunications service provider based in Bahrain. It is owned by the Saudi Telecom Company and started its commercial service in March 2010. The company is headquartered in Manama, Bahrain.
Vietnam’s Viettel Group and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. announced plans to collaborate and develop a next-generation 5G Radio Unit (RU) with massive MIMO capabilities and distributed units (DUs). This focuses on helping to expedite the development and roll-out of 5G network infrastructure and services in Vietnam and globally.
Using the Qualcomm® X100 5G RAN Accelerator Card and Massive MIMO Qualcomm® QRU100 5G RAN Platform combined with its own advanced hardware and software systems, Viettel expects to accelerate the development and commercialization of high-performance Open RAN massive MIMO solutions, which simplify network deployment and lower total cost of ownership (TCO).
Viettel is one of four global partners trusted and selected by Qualcomm to participate in the development and application of this new 5G chipset of Qualcomm. According to Qualcomm, the partnership will help advance the cellular ecosystem and accelerate the innovation cycle.
Present in 11 countries and territories, the digital services provided by Viettel serves a customer base of more than 270 million people worldwide from Asia, Africa and the Americas. Viettel has successfully tested 5G in 15 provinces and cities across Vietnam.
“Viettel has been a pioneer in adopting new telecommunications technologies including 5G. We are delighted to have Qualcomm Technologies as a key technology provider in our 5G gNodeB project,” said Nguyen Vu Ha, general director, Viettel High Technology. “This collaboration between Qualcomm Technologies and Viettel Group will be the cornerstone of Vietnam’s national strategy for Made in Vietnam 5G infrastructure.”
“Qualcomm Technologies, as a global technology leader in 5G, is looking forward to collaborating with Viettel for the development of Open RAN solutions that will establish the foundation for Vietnam’s next-generation of wireless networks,” said Durga Malladi, senior vice president and general manager, Cellular Modems and Infrastructure, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
Viettel has built a large 4G telecommunications infrastructure covering 97% of Vietnam population and has become a pioneer in 5G adoption in Vietnam. Viettel’s 5G services are available in 16 cities and provinces in Vietnam to date. Viettel develops full network elements including Devices, Radio Access Network (RAN), Transmission Network, and Core Network which are forming a strong foundation for digital society.
Qualcomm is the world’s leading wireless technology innovator and the driving force behind the development, launch, and expansion of 5G. Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, operates, along with its subsidiaries, substantially all of our engineering, research and development functions, and substantially all of our products and services businesses, including our QCT semiconductor business.
Research conducted by CELLSMART, a division of French managed services provider SmartCIC, has found that 5G upload speeds are in many cases insufficient to support data transfer for enterprise applications. The Global Cellular Performance Survey was based on independent field tests conducted by 2,536 telecoms network engineers in 51 countries to capture network performance data and then analyzed by the CELLSMART team.
The CELLSMART Global Cellular Performance Survey collects data from telecoms network engineers working in the field to provide an up-to-date snap shot of actual performance across cellular technologies. It is using the data it collects in its planning, network selection and service development and monitoring for fixed wireless enterprise customers.
Top 5 Metro Markets – 5G Average Download Speed
• Cannes (France)
• Munich (Germany)
• Nashville (US)
• Oslo (Norway)
“The research shows how MNOs have prioritized 5G download speeds in their initial rollouts and now there’s an opportunity to focus on enterprise demand for rapid upstream data transfer. 5G networks are showing upload speeds that are 13% of their download speeds while 4G has a balanced download/upload symmetry with 36%. Based on the research sample, we saw 5G delivering higher latency than 4G in some cases. This may be due to a number of the 5G tests being run on low-band networks. Where results have been taken in areas with mmWave, there are dramatically different results including downloads in excess of 800mbps, uploads in excess of 250mbps and latencies of sub 10ms,” said Toby Forman, CEO at SmartCIC.
For capturing network performance data, speed tests were run by 2,536 telecoms network engineers across 51 countries in 331 unique locations globally. Each engineer conducted the tests independently in the field and submitted result anonymously between March 25, 2022 and May 6, 2022. Data samples were collected from Africa, Asia, Australia, the Americas and Europe. The CELLSMART team did the data analysis.
Top 5 Mobile Network Operators – Maximum Download Speeds (All Technologies)
• du (UAE)
• Telia (Sweden)
• Deutsche Telekom (Germany)
• EE (UK)
• Singtel (Singapore)
However, upload speeds were on average only 31.27 Mbps – just 55% better than the 4G global average.
“We went out to our global network of 25,000 engineers and asked them to log network performance wherever they were operating. Over time, as we see more results added to our database and we’ll be able to provide an accurate and evolving snapshot of how cellular technologies are performing in the field. This initial cut of data is just the start of the process. As we begin to see greater density of results globally we will those into insights for our customers and the broader market,” said Forman. “We did this because this information simply didn’t exist on a global scale and we believe the market needs intelligent cellular solutions,” he added.
Orange Poland is researching the possibilities for using 5G technology for the management of drones. These activities are being done by its R&D unit – the 5G Lab. Almost 200,000 drone users are currently registered in the country. Latvian operator LMT is also doing research on the same topic. However, Verizon has notified customers that it is closing down Skyward – its drone software company.
Separately, Polish telecommunications regulator UKE issued 119 decisions clearing testing of 5G technology on the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands in 2021, reports Telko.in.
Orange Poland and P4 (Play) tested 5G the most. The tests were mainly carried out on the 3.5 GHz band in major cities, such as Warsaw and Lodz, and Play also tested 5G on the 26 GHz band in Torun.
Polkomtel, trading under the Plus brand, was the only among major Polish mobile operators which didn’t apply for 5G testing in 2021.
The EU has published a report on the cybersecurity of Open RAN, a 4G/5G (maybe even 2G?) network architecture the European Commission says will provide an alternative way of deploying the radio access part of 5G networks over the coming years, based on open interfaces. The EU noted that while Open RAN architectures create new opportunities in the marketplace, they also raise important security challenges, especially in the short term.
“It will be important for all participants to dedicate sufficient time and attention to mitigate such challenges, so that the promises of Open RAN can be realized,” the report said.
The report found that Open RAN could bring potential security opportunities, provided certain conditions are met. Namely, through greater interoperability among RAN components from different suppliers, Open RAN could allow greater diversification of suppliers within networks in the same geographic area. This could contribute to achieving the EU 5G Toolbox recommendation that each operator should have an appropriate multi-vendor strategy to avoid or limit any major dependency on a single supplier.
Open RAN could also help increase visibility of the network thanks to the use of open interfaces and standards, reduce human errors through greater automation, and increase flexibility through the use of virtualisation and cloud-based systems.
However, the Open RAN concept still lacks maturity, which means cybersecurity remains a significant challenge. Especially in the short term, by increasing the complexity of networks, Open RAN could exacerbate certain types of security risks, providing a larger attack surface and more entry points for malicious actors, giving rise to an increased risk of misconfiguration of networks and potential impacts on other network functions due to resource sharing.
The report added that technical specifications, such as those developed by the O-RAN Alliance, are not yet sufficiently secure by design. This means that Open RAN could lead to new or increased critical dependencies, for example in the area of components and cloud.
The EU recommended the use of regulatory powers to monitor large-scale Open RAN deployment plans from mobile operators and if needed, restrict, prohibit or impose specific requirements or conditions for the supply, large-scale deployment and operation of the Open RAN network equipment.
Technical controls such as authentication and authorization could be reinforced and a risk profile assessed for Open RAN providers, external service providers related to Open RAN, cloud service/infrastructure providers and system integrators. The EU added that including Open RAN components into the future 5G cybersecurity certification scheme, currently under development, should happen at the earliest possible stage.
Following up on the coordinated work already done at EU level to strengthen the security of 5G networks with the EU Toolbox on 5G Cybersecurity, Member States have analysed the security implications of Open RAN.
Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, said: “Our common priority and responsibility is to ensure the timely deployment of 5G networks in Europe, while ensuring they are secure. Open RAN architectures create new opportunities in the marketplace, but this report shows they also raise important security challenges, especially in the short term. It will be important for all participants to dedicate sufficient time and attention to mitigate such challenges, so that the promises of Open RAN can be realised.”
Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, added: “With 5G network rollout across the EU, and our economies’ growing reliance on digital infrastructures, it is more important than ever to ensure a high level of security of our communication networks. That is what we did with the 5G cybersecurity toolbox. And that is what – together with the Member States – we do now on Open RAN with this new report. It is not up to public authorities to choose a technology. But it is our responsibility to assess the risks associated to individual technologies. This report shows that there are a number of opportunities with Open RAN but also significant security challenges that remain unaddressed and cannot be underestimated. Under no circumstances should the potential deployment in Europe’s 5G networks of Open RAN lead to new vulnerabilities.”
Guillaume Poupard, Director General of France’s National Cyber Security Agency (ANSSI), said: “After the EU Toolbox on 5G Cybersecurity, this report is another milestone in the NIS Cooperation Group’s effort to coordinate and mitigate the security risks of our 5G networks. This in-depth security analysis of Open RAN contributes to ensuring that our common approach keeps pace with new trends and related security challenges. We will continue our work to jointly address those challenges.”
Finally, a technology-neutral regulation to foster competition should be maintained., with EU and national funding for 5G and 6G research and innovation, so that EU players can compete on a level playing field.
As of end-December, the number of cities worldwide with 5G networks was 1,947 , with 635 new cities added in 2021, according to the latest Viavi Solutions report ‘The State of 5G.’
By the end of January 2022, 72 countries had 5G networks, with Argentina, Bhutan, Kenya, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Malta and Mauritius coming online in the second half of 2021.
Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) passed Asia Pacific including Greater China (APAC), to become the region with the most 5G cities, at 839. APAC has 689 5G cities and the Americas has 419.
China has the most 5G cities (356), ahead of the US (296) and the Philippines (98). However, more than half of China’s so called 5G subscribers are on 4G networks. Robert Clark of Light Reading wrote: “China has tried to kick-start 5G with low prices, with the result that it has a huge population of 5G subscribers on 4G networks. Less than half of China Mobile’s 467 million 5G subs are actually using 5G – a ratio that has remained constant for the past year.”
Most 5G networks deployed are Non-Standalone (NSA) networks. There are only 24 5G Standalone (SA) networks. It is widely considered that many of the next-generation use cases and monetization models associated with 5G, beyond enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) will only be possible when Standalone 5G networks built on new 5G core networks are in place.
The State of 5G also highlights the growing Open RAN ecosystem, combining mobile operators as well as software and infrastructure vendors, seeking to develop an open, virtualized Radio Access Network (RAN) with embedded Artificial Intelligence (AI) control. As of March 2022, 64 operators have publicly announced their participation in the development of Open RAN networks. This breaks down to 23 live deployments of Open RAN networks, 34 in the trial phase with a further seven operators that have publicly announced they are in the pre-trial phase.
As of March 2022, 64 operators publicly announced their participation in the development of Open RAN networks, of which 23 were live deployments, 34 in the trial phase and another 7 operators in the pre-trial phase.
“5G continued to expand, despite the headwinds of a global pandemic,” said Sameh Yamany, CTO, VIAVI Solutions. “What comes next in 5G is the reinforcement of networks. This will take a couple of forms. Firstly, we expect to see more Standalone 5G networks, which will deliver on much of the promise of 5G, both for the operator and for the wider ecosystem of users. And secondly, we expect to see Open RAN continue its rapid development and start to become a de facto standard. VIAVI will continue to play a central role in testing those new networks as they are built and expanded.”
This virtual event on ZOOM will be from 10am-12pm PDT on May 26, 2022. Registration information to be posted soon.
IEEE ComSoc and SCU School of Engineering (SoE) are thrilled to have three world class experts discuss the cybersecurity threats, mitigation methods and lessons learned from a data center attack. One speaker will also propose a new IT Security Architecture where control flips from the network core to the edge.
Each participant will provide a 15 to 20 minute talk which will be followed by a lively panel session with both pre-planned and ad hoc/ extemporaneous questions. Audience members are encouraged to submit their questions in the chat and also to send them in advance to [email protected]
Below are descriptions of each talk along with the speaker’s bio:
Cybersecurity for Cellular Networks (3G/4G, 5G NSA and SA) and the IoT
Jimmy Jones, ZARIOT
Everyone agrees there is an urgent need for improved security in today’s cellular networks (3G/4G, 5G) and the Internet of Things (IoT). Jimmy will discuss the legacy problems of 3G/4G, migration to 5G and issues in roaming between cellular carriers as well as the impact of networks transitioning to support IoT.
Note: It’s important to know that 5G security, as specified by 3GPP (there are no ITU recommendations on 5G security), requires a 5G Stand Alone (SA) core network, very few of which have been deployed. 5G Non Stand Alone (NSA) networks are the norm, but they depend on a 4G-LTE infrastructure, including 4G security.
Cellular network security naturally leads into IoT security, since cellular networks (e.g. NB IoT, LTE-M, 5G) are often used for IoT connectivity.
It is estimated that by 2025 we will interact with an IoT device every 18 seconds, meaning our online experiences and physical lives will become indistinguishable. With this in mind it is as critical to improve IoT security as fastening a child’s seatbelt.
The real cost of a security breach or loss of service for a critical IoT device could be disastrous for a business of any size, yet it’s a cost seldom accurately calculated or forecasted by most enterprises at any stage of IoT deployment. Gartner predicts Operational Technologies might be weaponized to cause physical harm or even kill within three years.
Jimmy will stress the importance of secure connectivity, but also explain the need to protect the full DNA of IoT (Device, Network and Applications) to truly secure the entire system.
Connectivity providers are a core component of IoT and have a responsibility to become part of the solution. A secure connectivity solution is essential, with strong cellular network standards/specifications and licensed spectrum the obvious starting point.
With cellular LPWANs (Low Power Wide Area Networks) outpacing unlicensed spectrum options (e.g. LoRa WAN, Sigfox) for the first time, Jimmy will stress the importance of secure connectivity and active collaboration across the entire IoT ecosystem. The premise is that the enterprise must know and protect its IoT DNA (Device, Network & Application) to truly be secure.
Questions from the audience:
I am open to try and answer anything you are interested in. Your questions will surely push me, so if you can let me know in advance (via email to Alan) that would be great! It’s nice to be challenged a bit and have to think about something new.
One item of interest might be new specific IoT legislation that could protect devices and data in Europe, Asia, and the US ?
“For IoT to realize its potential it must secure and reliable making connectivity and secure by design policies the foundation of and successful project. Success in digital transformation (especially where mission and business critical devices are concerned) requires not only optimal connectivity and maximal uptime, but also a secure channel and protection against all manner of cybersecurity threats. I’m excited to be part of the team bringing these two crucial pillars of IoT to enterprise. I hope we can demonstrate that security is an opportunity for business – not a burden.”
Jimmy Jones is a telecoms cybersecurity expert and Head of Security at ZARIOT. His experience in telecoms spans over twenty years, during which time he has built a thorough understanding of the industry working in diverse roles but all building from early engineering positions within major operators, such as WorldCom (now Verizon), and vendors including Nortel, Genband & Positive Technologies.
In 2005 Jimmy started to focus on telecom security, eventually transitioning completely in 2017 to work for a specialist cyber security vendor. He regularly presents at global telecom and IoT events, is often quoted by the tech media, and now brings all his industry experience to deliver agile and secure digital transformation with ZARIOT.
Title: Flip the Security Control of the Internet
Colin Constable, The @ Company
With the explosion of Internet connected devices and services carrying user data, do current IT architectures remain secure as they scale? The simple and scary answer is absolutely no, we need to rethink the whole stack. Data breaches are not acceptable and those who experience them pay a steep price.
Transport Layer Security (TLS) encrypts data sent over the Internet to ensure that eavesdroppers and hackers are unable to see the actual data being transmitted. However, the Router needs meta data (the IP and Port) to make it work. What meta data does the Data level Router have access to?
We need to discuss how to approach the problem and selectively discard, but learn from previous IT architectures so that we can build a more solid, secure IT infrastructure for the future.
I will provide a glimpse of a future security focused IT architecture.
- We need to move most security control functionality to the edge of the network.
- Cloud data center storage should be positioned as an encrypted cache with encryption keys at the edge.
- No one set of keys or system admin can open all the encrypted data.
When data is shared edge to edge we need to be able to specify and authenticate the person, entity or thing that is sharing the data. No one in the middle should be able to see data in the clear.
Issues with Encryption Keys:
- IT and Data security increasingly rely on encryption; encryption relies on keys; who has them?
- Is there really any point to VPN’s Firewalls and Network segmentation if data is encrypted?
- We use keys for so many things TLS, SSH, IM, Email, but we never tend to think about the keys.
- Do you own your keys? If not someone else can see your data!
- What do we need to flip the way IT is architected?
Recommendations for Keys:
- Keys should be cut at the edge and never go anywhere else.
- You should be able to securely share keys along with the data being transmitted/received.
- There needs to be a new way to think about identity on the Internet.
The above description should stimulate many questions from attendees during the panel discussion.
Colin Constable’s passion is networking and security. He was one of the founding members of the Jericho Forum in the 2000s. In 2007 at Credit Suisse, he published “Network Vision 2020,” which was seen by some as somewhat crazy at the time, but most of it is very relevant now. While at Juniper, Colin worked on network virtualization and modeling that blurred the boundaries between network and compute. Colin is now the CTO of The @ Company, which has invented a new Internet protocol and built a platform that they believe will change not just networking and security, but society itself for the better.
The Anatomy of a Cloud Data Center Attack
Thomas Foerster, Nokia
Critical infrastructure (like a telecommunications network) is becoming more complex and reliant on networks of inter-connected devices. With the advent of 5G mobile networks, security threat vectors will expand. In particular, the exposure of new connected industries (Industry 4.0) and critical services (connected vehicular, smart cities etc.) widens the cybersecurity attack surface.
The telecommunication network is one of the targets of cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure, but it is not the only one. Transport, public sector services, energy sector and critical manufacturing industries are also vulnerable.
Cloud data centers provide the required computing resources, thus forming the backbone of a telecommunications network and becoming more important than ever. We will discuss the anatomy of a recent cybersecurity attack at a cloud data center, review what happened and the lessons learned.
- What are possible mitigation’s against social engineering cyber- attacks?
-Multifactor authentication (MFA)
-Education, awareness and training campaigns
- How to build trust using Operational Technology (OT) in a cloud data center?
- Access monitoring
- Audits to international standards and benchmarks
- Security monitoring
- Playbooks with mitigation and response actions
- Business continuity planning and testing
Recommendations to prevent or mitigate DC attacks:
- Privileged Access Management across DC entities
- Individual credentials for all user / device entities
- MFA: One-Time Password (OTP) via text message or phone call considered being not secure 2-Factor Authentication anymore
- Network and configuration audits considering NIST/ CIS/ GSMA NESAS
- Regular vulnerability scans and keep network entities up to date
- Tested playbooks to mitigate security emergencies
- Business continuity planning and establish tested procedures
Thomas Foerster is a senior product manager for Cybersecurity at Nokia. He has more than 25 years experiences in the telecommunications industry, has held various management positions within engineering and loves driving innovations. Thomas has dedicated his professional work for many years in product security and cybersecurity solutions.
Thomas holds a Master of Telecommunications Engineering from Beuth University of Applied Sciences, Berlin/ Germany.
Previous IEEE ComSoc/SCU SoE March 22, 2022 event: OpenRAN and Private 5G – New Opportunities and Challenges
Video is at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7QUyhjxpzE
by Angel Dobardziev, Senior Director at IDC (edited by Alan J Weissberger)
At this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, major wireless equipment vendors such as Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia highlighted 5G portfolio announcements that emphasized the generation’s superior energy efficiency and sustainability, and indeed, recent IDC conversations with European CSPs underlined the fact that energy efficiency is a top priority for most network operations executives.
5G networks are incredibly high-power consumers (especially mmWave). They can provide downstream data rates of up to 1 Gbps at latencies of ~20ms to thousands of densely connected devices (smartphones, internet of things, machines, etc.). This massive performance uplift versus 4G is achieved with a powerful 5G RAN infrastructure that can include densely packed 64x or 128x massive MIMO (mMIMO) antennas (by comparison, 4G typically has 4x or 8x mMIMO antennas); denser network architectures with more cell sites in urban areas; and much “fatter” fiber backhaul/fronthaul networks that shuffle traffic between the RAN and core networks, among other things. These powerful features can make unoptimized 5G networks voracious energy beasts: a GSMA study cited Huawei research that 5G cell sites needed up to three times more energy than their 4G equivalents.
Of course, 5G networks support many new and existing energy-reducing features such as smart sleep mode, beamforming, C-RAN and a much more flexible architecture. These energy-saving elements make 5G a much more energy efficient technology per unit of mobile traffic versus 4G. This is a key point that is readily seized on by mobile infrastructure vendors to encourage CSPs to accelerate their 5G investments and deployments. But there is a bit more to the 5G energy and sustainability debate than just how efficient it is on a perbit basis or how much it can reduce carbon emissions in other industries.
First, mobile data traffic has been growing at more than 40% over the past few years and looks set to continue its exponential growth. In its latest mobility report, Ericsson estimates that global mobile traffic will increase by a factor of 4.6 over the next five years, from 80EB in 2021 to 370EB in 2027, 80% of which will be video related. So while 5G is much more efficient per bit, CSPs will move a lot more data bits through the air, which along with the higher density of base stations (due to higher carrier frequencies) will require a lot more energy than previous generations.
Second, mobile operators are deploying 5G networks on top of existing 4G (and often 3G and 2G) networks. Over a third of all mobile traffic in 2027 will still be carried over 3G and 4G networks. This means CSPs will typically have to spend on energy to power new 5G networks as well as existing 3G/4G networks in parallel for many years to come, which will also mean continued upward pressure on energy use and spend.
CSPs need to pull three 5G sustainability levers to address the energy issue:
IDC believes CSPs must ensure they lead the 5G energy and sustainability debate by focusing their efforts on three key areas:
- Establish C-suite accountability for accelerated 5G energy efficiency and sustainability
- Partner with 5G equipment vendors
- Define 5G sustainability impacts to stakeholders (regulators, investors, customers, partners) in a credible and realistic framework
While leading European CSPs, including Vodafone, BT, Telecom Italia, and Telenor have announced bold targets to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030, the task of reducing energy consumption in the short term almost entirely falls to network operations executives, whose agenda includes competing priorities of accelerating 5G deployments, maintaining network performance, lowering operating costs, reducing legacy network complexity, and supporting broader CSP transformation. Delivering more substantial energy savings requires concerted effort — and investment — to transform and upgrade network operations processes and equipment so they can minimize energy use per bit of traffic carried while maintaining or improving network capabilities and performance.
Such accelerated energy efficiency focus and investments need accountability from CSP C-suite executives to succeed. This is not always the case today given the current financial situation of the telco sector in Europe. A case in point is the switch to green and renewable energy to power mobile networks, including solar and wind, which often requires substantial focus and investment in new renewable energy infrastructures. For example, T-Mobile US announced in January 2022 that it reached its 100% renewable energy target at the end of 2021, one of the first in the world to do so. But this required a concerted effort over three years since it was announced in 2018 by then-CEO John Legere. At the time, the company said that this was not just the right thing to do, but it made excellent business sense, suggesting that it would save $100 million in energy costs in the next 15 years.
Second, CSPs must work much more closely with vendor partners, 5G equipment providers, and software vendors to improve the energy efficiency of equipment and monitor how they deliver on it. Leading 5G infrastructure vendors in Europe such as Ericsson and Nokia offer comprehensive energy optimization frameworks that focus on planning, deploying, and operating 5G networks to greatly reduce energy footprint without impacting performance. IDC is aware of only a few CSPs that have established commercial incentives for strict 5G energy efficiency targets on the equipment they procured to make sure vendors deliver on it. Some energy management specialist vendors can help with this task as well.
Finally, CSPs must take a decisive but realistic and credible position on potential of 5G for “downstream” energy reductions. These refer to energy saved and carbon emissions prevented in other industries via 5G use cases that can reduce carbon emissions. There is very little doubt that high-performing 5G networks are set to enhance existing use cases and enable new ones in different industries from manufacturing to transportation, energy, health, and agriculture that will minimize the need for people to move to specific locations and optimize the efficiency of assets, resources, and workforces in many ways depending on the vertical and enterprise. But the 5G downstream industry and societal impacts sustainability estimates must be realistic in order to be credible. There are, for example, highly optimistic estimates that 5G can help achieve a fifth of carbon reduction targets in some markets by 2025, even though many operators are just starting to get to grips with standalone access (SA) and network slicing technologies that are critical for many such use cases.
To sum up, sustainability will remain a major focus area for CSPs in 2022 and beyond and 5G networks’ energy use is a major issue in this debate. While European telcos net-zero goals to 2030 and beyond are worthy commitments, CSPs must clearly do more now. To this end, they can establish senior C-level accountability on this issue, work much more closely with vendor partners, and set realistic targets on downstream 5G sustainability gains.
About the Author:
In 2021, Verizon spent more than $50 billion at FCC auctions to acquire mid-band C-band spectrum licenses for 5G. Along with AT&T, it negotiated a high-profile battle with the U.S. airline industry and FAA to put those spectrum licenses into commercial operations at the beginning of this year.
Verizon launched a C-band 5G network covering 130 million people – almost half of the U.S. population- in the 1st quarter of 2022. By the end of the first quarter, around 40% of Verizon‘s customers owned 5G gadgets capable of accessing the network, and it’s already carrying almost a third of all of Verizon‘s data traffic where it is available.
According to results from network-monitoring company Ookla, Verizon‘s 5G download speeds doubled via to its C-band network launch. However, the effort has been costly. Verizon‘s quarterly capital expenses (capex) spiked during the first quarter thanks to the $1.5 billion it spent during the period on the network equipment necessary to put its C-band licenses into action. That figure doesn’t include the extra money Verizon spent on its massive marketing campaign, which included $1,000 handset subsidies and a $1,000 switcher credit, during the quarter to promote the new network.
What does Verizon have to show for all its mid-band 5G investments? So very much as Moody wrote in a report skeptical on 5G monetization.
In the 1st quarter of 2022, Verizon lost 36,000 postpaid phone customers. While that’s certainly an improvement over the operator’s quarterly performance from a year ago, and also better than some financial analyst expectations, it stands in stark contrast to the 691,000 new postpaid phone customers AT&T netted during the period. AT&T, for its part, has delayed slightly its own big mid-band 5G network buildout until next year.
Moreover, Verizon executives acknowledged that the company saw a slowdown in new customers signing up for Verizon service starting in February and accelerating into March, just as the operator’s C-band marketing campaign ramped up.
David Barden, a financial analyst with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, called out the situation during Verizon‘s quarterly conference call on Friday. “There was a time when Verizon had the best network and could charge the highest prices. And on these calls we would talk about margins and obtainable market share,” he said. “You guys are now [market] share donors. And we’re celebrating how many 5G phones we have and how much C-band we’re deploying, but it’s not obvious that that’s translating into something tangible that investors can celebrate in terms of financial reward. So can we talk a little about that?”
“We’re going to compete well,” Vestberg said, adding that “we see more excitement in the market where we offer C-band.”
“This is going to pay off big time in 5-10 years,” he said of Verizon‘s broad 5G investments.
However, he also conceded that Verizon could suffer from inflationary pressures on its labor and energy costs. And, like AT&T CEO John Stankey, he said Verizon may consider raising service prices as a result.
Verizon has lowered their 2022 guidance to the low end of their previous range on every key metric, and they cut their forecast for service and other revenue growth to flat (from +1.0-1.5% previously). The company warned that it now expects its full-year 2022 financial results to come in at the low end of its previously announced guidance. Nonetheless, “we remain well positioned to achieve our long-term growth targets,” Vestberg said.
Analysts don’t seem to agree with Vestberg’s optimism:
“Verizon is growing neither its subscriber base nor its ARPU [average revenue per user]. At a time of rising inflationary pressures, pricing power is nowhere to be found,” wrote the colleague Craig Moffett at MoffettNathanson in a note to clients following the release of Verizon‘s first-quarter results. “And on the unit side, Verizon is already losing share. Unless something changes for 5G revenues that still seem rather intangible (IoT, MEC [multiaccess edge computing], or private networks), the growth runway for Verizon would appear rather weak.”
“There are areas for concern outside of the Wireless segment. Again like AT&T, their Wireline segment is a drag on growth that is only getting worse (their results in Business Wireline, in particular, were – like AT&T’s yesterday – shockingly weak). That puts even more of an onus on the Wireless unit to grow.”
“Things aren’t likely to get easier. Consolidated operating revenue (as reported) of $33.6B was 0.3% below consensus of $33.7B. With such anemic growth, the inflation backdrop is a troubling one. Costs will rise faster than revenues.”
Moffett sees “no easy answers” for Verizon. It could “bow to the pressure” and increase promotions, but he noted that this would further constrain average revenue per user growth for both Verizon and the broader industry. The company could stay disciplined with its pricing and promotional strategies, but doing so would risk further subscriber losses at a time when Verizon’s network advantage over rivals is in jeopardy. “In summary, the path forward remains a challenging one,” Craig concluded.
Financial analysts with New Street Research wrote: “We do remain concerned about Verizon‘s longer-term prospects in wireless, fueled by T-Mobile‘s lead over Verizon on deploying upper mid-band [spectrum] and big lead on total holdings in mid-band spectrum. Verizon management’s aspirations for strong service revenue growth driven by rising ARPU and growing subscribers also still seem way too optimistic in the face of rising competition from a challenger [T-Mobile] with a similar (if not soon-to-be better) network offering priced at a steep discount.”
The New Street analysts also acknowledged that there are widespread expectations that overall growth in the U.S. wireless industry will start to slow sometime this year and that Verizon could be the first 5G operator to suffer from that trend that may eventually affect all of the market’s players.
India’s telecom regulator (Trai) believes that its suggestion of coexistence between terrestrial network operators and satellite service providers in the millimeter wave (mmWave) band of 27.5- 28.5 GHz is essential for the “optimum use of airwaves.”
Trai has recommended the mmWave band – 24.25 GHz to 28.5 GHz – be put to auction. It has recommended a base price of Rs 7 crore a unit.
“Both International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) and satellite bands can co-exist. That has to happen for the efficient use of spectrum,” said a senior Telecom regulator who did not want to be identified by name.
“The Satellite Earth Station Gateway (for satcom) should be permitted to be established in the frequency range 27.5-28.5 GHz at uninhabited or remote locations on a case-to-to-case basis, where there is less likelihood of 5G IMT services to come up,” the Trai official said.
Trai said that such a move would encourage buyers – both telcos and satcom players and eliminate the possibility of a major chunk of such airwaves to remain idle.
As we’ve noted many times, the WRC 19 specified 5G mmWave frequency arrangements have yet to be standardized in the ITU-R M.1036 revision. Hence, it’s a 5G frequency free for all.
Why are telecom companies upset with TRAI despite its proposal to cut spectrum prices by 40%?
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) this week released recommendations on auction of spectrum, including those likely to be used for offering 5G services. The telecom regulator has suggested cutting prices of airwaves across various bands by 35-40% from its earlier proposed base price. However, the Cellular Operators Association of India, whose members include the three private telcos, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea, has expressed disappointment, given the industry’s demand for a 90% reduction in the prices.
The telecom regulator has recommended that all available spectrum in the existing bands — 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz — should be put up for auction, along with airwaves in new bands such as 600 MHz, 3300-3670 MHz and 24.25-28.5 GHz. In all, more than 1,00,000 MHz of airwaves have been recommended to be put up for auction. The total spectrum on offer at reserve price is valued at about ₹5 lakh crore for 20 years.
For the 3300-3670 MHz band, which has emerged as the prime spectrum for 5G and is likely to be used for deploying 5G in India, the all-India reserve price has been lowered by about 35.5% to ₹317 crore/MHz, from ₹492 crore/MHz recommended earlier. Similarly, the reserve price for the premium 700 MHz band, which saw no takers in the previous auction, has been cut by 40% to ₹3,927 crore/MHz, from about ₹6,568 crore/MHz.
TRAI has determined the reserve price for spectrum bands based on a 20-year spectrum holding period. The reserve price for the increase in spectrum holding period to 30 years would be 1.5x the recommended reserve price for 20 years.
It has also recommended several options for the uptake of Captive Wireless Private Networks (CWPNs), including private networks through telcos, independent isolated network in an enterprise’s premises using telcos’ spectrum, allowing enterprise to take spectrum on lease from telcos or directly from Department of Telecom (DoT) to establish their own isolated captive private networks. TRAI also suggested that enterprises may obtain the spectrum directly from the government and establish their own isolated CWPN.
Given the financial stress in the sector, the government had in November, written to the regulator emphasising the need to strike a balance between generating revenue and the sustainability of the telecom sector in a way that telecom service providers are in good health with sufficient capacities to make regular and substantial capital expenditure for transitioning to 5G technology. It had also highlighted that spectrum lying idle was a waste for the economy.
Further, in the last spectrum auction, held in March 2021, only 37.1% of the spectrum put to auction was acquired by the telecom services providers, largely due to high prices.
“The inputs received by the Authority during the consultation process also point to the need for further rationalisation of the reserve price,” the regulator said in the recommendation running to more than 400 pages.
In its recommendations, the regulator has asserted that the “valuation exercise (and the setting of the reserve prices) is grounded in a techno-economic methodology that is time-tested. The valuation is intended to elicit spectrum prices that encourage buyers to procure radio frequencies in different bands, while at the same time ensuring that bidders are discouraged from collusive behaviour.”
The telecom services providers have via the industry body COAI expressed disappointment with TRAI’s recommendations for auction of 5G spectrum bands.
In a strongly worded reaction, COAI called the recommendation a “step backwards” than forward towards building a digitally connected India.
COAI maintained that the spectrum pricing recommended by TRAI was too high, and noted that throughout the consultation process, the industry had presented extensive arguments based on global research and benchmarks, for significant reduction in spectrum prices. “Industry recommended 90% lower price, and to see only about 35-40% reduction recommended in prices, therefore is deeply disappointing,” it said.
It added that charging a 1.5x price for spectrum for a 30-year period will nullify the relief provided by the Union Cabinet in 2021. The industry body pointed out that by introducing mandatory rollout obligations for 5G networks without factoring the huge cost of such a rollout, TRAI has “delinked itself from reality and is running counter to the Government’s efforts of enhancing ease of doing business”.
On allowing private captive networks for enterprises, COAI argued that TRAI was dramatically altering the industry dynamics and hurting the financial health of the industry rather than improving it. Private networks would be a disincentive for the telecom industry to invest in networks and continue paying high levies and taxes, it contended.