Telefónica switches on 5G; 75% of Spain to be covered this year

Telefónica has launched commercial 5G services throughout Spain, pledging to reach 75 percent of the Spanish population by the end of the year. In a statement, the company’s executive chairman Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete described the deployment as the most ambitious in the European Union. “The launch of 5G is a leap forward towards the hyperconnectivity that will change the future of Spain,” he said, noting that “it’s 5G for everyone, without any exceptions, in all the autonomous communities.”  [That assumes low enough 5G tariffs, such that poorer working class Spaniards can afford the service].   Telefonica is accelerating “the digitalisation of small and medium companies, public administrations and citizens, ”Alvarez-Pallete added.

“Our network has always been a differential asset. People’s lives pass through it and it has demonstrated unparalleled strength when it’s been most needed”, Álvarez-Pallete continued.  He pointed out that Spain already leads Europe’s digital infrastructures with the largest fiber optic network.

Editor’s Note: Telefonica’s 5G announcement follows Vodafone – Spain‘s commercial 5G network deployment in 21 cities in Spain. Initial 5G speeds of up to 1 Gbps for Vodafone subscribers in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Malaga, Zaragoza, Bilbao, Vitoria, San Sebastian, La Coruna, Vigo, Gijon, Pamplona, Logrono and Santander. Speeds will rise to 2 Gbps by the end of the year, some 10 times the current 4G maximum, with latency reduced to less than 5 milliseconds in ideal conditions.

Orange and Masmovil set to launch their 5G networks in Spain this month. All four of Spain’s MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) are expected to bid for frequencies in the 700 MHz band when the government holds its delayed spectrum auction in the first quarter of 2021.

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Telecom Review - Telefónica Deutschland and Huawei launch 5G-oriented  antenna solution

Telefonica said 5G technology will give residential customers access to far faster speeds and lower latency, allowing sports fans to enjoy live 360-degree broadcasts and mobile gamers to access a “fibre-like” experience. Businesses will have access to services such as Multi-Access Edge Computing, 5G private networks, mass IoT and critical communications, as well as network virtualisation to facilitate more effective use of the network’s resources.

The Spain based network operator (also active in Latin America) clarified that it will initially launch NSA (non-standalone) 5G combined with DSS (Dynamic Spectrum Sharing) ahead of the “immediate deployment” of 5G SA (standalone) when the technology becomes fully available after standardisation. The company said it will make use of its current sites and infrastructure for the initial rollout, to be complemented by new base stations and small cells according to capacity and coverage needs.

It’s also having to rely on the 3.5 GHz band, together with mid-band (1800-2100 MHz) frequencies, for the initial coverage thanks to equipment that can operate with 4G and 5G at the same time. Telefonica also announced that it intends to shut down its 3G network in 2025, when 100 percent of its copper network will have been replaced by fiber optics.

“With 5G everything happens in a millisecond. A millisecond is what makes remote surgery, autonomous cars, the smart management of energy resources and cities and highly advanced entertainment possible. A millisecond is much more than a new response time. It’s Telefónica’s response to the new times. It’s Telefónica’s commitment to the country’s future”, concluded Álvarez-Pallete.

For residential customers, in addition to the benefits brought by 5G in terms of greater speed and lower latency, which will allow them, for example, to download a film in seconds, 5G will provide the possibility, among other features, of enjoying live sports broadcasts during which users will obtain a 360º experience and be able to view any angle of the match as if they were on the pitch itself. Gaming enthusiasts will obtain a mobility experience similar to that provided by fibre in the home, in other words, without any interruptions or latency. 5G will thus enable them to play on their mobile phones as if they were on their home computer screens or their video consoles.

5G business customers will have access to services like Multi-Access Edge Computing, which offers ultra-low latency services and greater computing capacity “on the network edge”, in addition to services such as 5G private networks, mass IoT and critical communications, as well as network virtualisation to facilitate more effective use of the network’s resources in keeping with the customers’ needs.

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Telefonica taps Huawei for 5G core, as DT freezes 5G deals amid uncertainty  | FierceWireless

Telefónica operates with the latest radio (base station) generations that allow dual 4G and 5G usage, with the aim of bringing 5G to the largest number of people from the outset. This first phase will witness the launch of the 5G network, thanks to a technology that combines the deployment of NSA (non-standalone) 5G and DSS (Dynamic Spectrum Sharing) and the subsequent immediate deployment of the SA (standalone) 5G network when the technology becomes fully available after standardisation. This initial deployment will also make use of the current sites and infrastructure and, in the mid and long terms, it will be complemented by new base stations and small cells as the capacity and coverage require.

The 3.5 GHz band frequency (the only 5G band frequency already licensed to operators) and the mid-band (1800-2100 MHz) frequencies are being used for this purpose. This is the current location of 4G, capitalising on the possibility of using NR (New Radio) equipment that can operate with both technologies (4G and 5G) at the same time.

The new deployments will take place in tandem with a gradual shut-down of the old second and third-generation networks. 100% of the copper network will have been replaced by fibre by 2025, when the 3G network will also be shut down. This will permit more effective management of investments, as it won’t be necessary to increase them to address the new deployments.

Source:  Telefónica

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References:

Extended-range 5G NR data call over mmWave completed; Ericsson & Qualcomm test 5G SA Carrier Aggregation

Qualcomm Technologies, Casa Systems and Ericsson announced that the companies successfully completed what they call the world’s first extended-range 5G NR data call over mmWave. The extended range data call was completed in Regional Victoria, Australia on 20 June, achieving a farthest-ever connection of 3.8 kilometers (km).

This so called “breakthrough” from Qualcomm Technologies, Casa Systems and Ericsson provides global network operators and ISPs with the reach and performance to offer fixed broadband wireless as a “last mile” access technology.  Of course, line of sight communications (i.e. no trees, walls or other blockages permitted). With the increased range demonstrated for mmWave, that technology may be suitable for fixed wireless access (FWA) as well as for 5G mobile service in suburban or even rural areas that won’t require as many small cells or high density cell towers.

Network operators will have the potential to use their existing mobile network assets to deliver fixed wireless services and expand their service with ease to new areas, from urban to rural, while delivering 5G’s multi-gigabit speeds and ultra-low latency to a wider customer base within their coverage footprint. In addition, this milestone will proliferate the roll-out of FWA customer-premises equipment (CPE) devices to areas that are often too difficult to reach with traditional broadband, including rural and suburban areas, empowering more customers across the globe to access superior connectivity at fiber optic-like speeds.

The extended-range data call was achieved by applying extended-range software to commercial Ericsson hardware – including Air5121 and Baseband 6630 – and a 5G CPE device powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System with the Qualcomm QTM527 mmWave antenna module.

5G mmWave: facts and fictions you should definitely know

“With the introduction of the Qualcomm QTM527 mmWave antenna module as part of the Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System, we are empowering operators and OEMs to offer high-performance, extended-range multi-gigabit 5G broadband to their customers – which is both flexible and cost-effective, as they can leverage existing 5G network infrastructure,” said Gautam Sheoran, senior director, product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “With this major milestone being the first step in utilizing mmWave for an extended-range 5G data transfer, our collaboration with Casa Systems and Ericsson is paving the way to implement fixed broadband services for broad coverage in urban, suburban and rural environments.”

“As operators look to close the digital divide and expand broadband services throughout rural, suburban and urban communities, the technology in this data connection underscores the critical role mmWave will play in the global proliferation of 5G networks,” said Steve Collins, senior vice president, access devices, Casa Systems. “This collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies and Ericsson is an industry milestone that makes it possible for operators to offer multi-gigabit broadband services wirelessly as a new broadband alternative solution using mmWave spectrum, and we look forward to delivering innovative CPE devices that further empowers the global broadband delivery ecosystem.”

Ericsson has a long history of working with extended range across generations of mobile technologies, pioneering with 3G, then 4G and now with 5G. By collaborating with leading industry partners like Qualcomm Technologies and Casa Systems, we are able to ensure that everyone can access the transformative benefits of 5G connectivity. This achievement will open up opportunities for communications service providers around the world and how they can use mmWave spectrum for long-range use cases,” said Per Narvinger, head of product area networks, Ericsson.

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5G SA Carrier Aggregation from Qualcomm & Ericsson:

Today’s announcement comes just three days after Qualcomm and Ericsson announced that they completed interoperability tests for 5G standalone (SA) carrier aggregation. Carrier aggregation allows operators to use multiple sub-6 GHz spectrum channels simultaneously to transfer data between base stations and a 5G mobile device.

The test was completed at Ericsson’s labs in Beijing, China. The connection reached 2.5 Gb/s peak speeds by aggregating 100 MHz and 60 MHz within the 2.5 GHz (n41) TDD band in a 70% downlink configuration and using 4×4 multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) technology.  In Sweden, the two companies established a successful 5G SA carrier aggregation data call by combining 20 MHz in the 600 MHz (n71) FDD band with 100 MHz of spectrum in the 2.5 GHz (n41) TDD band.

Implementation of 5G carrier aggregation delivers enhanced network capacity along with improved 5G speeds and reliability in challenging wireless conditions, allowing consumers to experience smoother video streaming and enjoy faster downloads. This key 5G capability is expected to be widely deployed by operators around the world in 2021, according to Ericsson.

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About Qualcomm
Qualcomm is the world’s leading wireless technology innovator and the driving force behind the development, launch, and expansion of 5G.  When we connected the phone to the internet, the mobile revolution was born. Today, our foundational technologies enable the mobile ecosystem and are found in every 3G, 4G and 5G smartphone. We bring the benefits of mobile to new industries, including automotive, the internet of things, and computing, and are leading the way to a world where everything and everyone can communicate and interact seamlessly.

Qualcomm Incorporated includes our licensing business, QTL, and the vast majority of our patent portfolio. 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.

About Casa Systems, Inc.
Casa Systems, Inc. is delivering physical, virtual and cloud-native 5G infrastructure and customer premise networking for high-speed data and multi-service communications networks. Our core and edge convergence technology enables public and private networks for both communications service providers and enterprises. Casa Systems’ products deliver higher performance, improved network flexibility and scalability, increased operational efficiency and lower total cost of ownership (TCO). Commercially deployed in more than 70 countries, Casa serves over 475 Tier 1 and regional service providers worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.casa-systems.com.

About Ericsson
Ericsson enables communications service providers to capture the full value of connectivity. The company’s portfolio spans Networks, Digital Services, Managed Services, and Emerging Business and is designed to help our customers go digital, increase efficiency and find new revenue streams. Ericsson’s investments in innovation have delivered the benefits of telephony and mobile broadband to billions of people around the world. The Ericsson stock is listed on Nasdaq Stockholm and on Nasdaq New York. www.ericsson.com

References:

https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/08/31/2086269/0/en/Qualcomm-Casa-Systems-and-Ericsson-Achieve-World-s-First-Extended-Range-5G-NR-Data-Call-Over-mmWave.html

https://www.telecompaper.com/news/qualcomm-casa-systems-ericsson-achieve-extended-range-5g-data-call-over-mmwave–1352053

https://www.ericsson.com/en/news/2020/8/5g-carrier-aggregation

https://www.qualcomm.com/invention/5g/5g-nr/mmwave

Nokia & Omdia: 5G could bring up to $3.3 trillion to Latin America by 2035- vs 13% of mobile subs in 2025?

Executive Summary:

5G services could bring up to $3.3 trillion to Latin America by 2035, according to a new study by Nokia and research firm Omdia.  The study, titled ‘Why 5G in Latin America?’ notes the uncertainty around the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic – yet alongside the projected $3.3 trillion in economic and social value promised by 5G, a $9 trillion improvement in productivity is also predicted.

We question what this optimistic forecast is based on since we haven’t been able to identify any real 5G use cases with current and near future 5G deployments.

Latin American operators have been relatively silent, apart from some trials, a deployment in Uruguay, and recent soft launches using DSS in Brazil.
This caution is understandable considering the late adoption of 4G. Omdia estimates that 4G in Latin America is about 52% of lines and 3G about a third (as of year-end 2019). Even 2G remains important at 13%, and it will not disappear until well after 2024.

To ignore the potential of 5G is to miss a considerable opportunity or leave it to one’s competitors, according to Omdia.  This report shows the opportunity in the mass market, as a fixed broadband substitute, and in the enterprise market. The mass-market opportunity is based on the immersive technologies powered by 5G that will take our digital experiences to the next level and beyond.

The enterprise opportunity is less familiar because it has not been as important a play in 3G and 4G as Omdia believes it will be in 5G. All Latin American enterprises must explore digital transformation to remain competitive in the rapidly evolving global economy. Latin American governments must transform themselves and, more importantly, encourage digital transformation in their economies to improve productivity and return the region to real growth in income per capita.

5G is not an option but an imperative, and this report discusses what service providers and policy makers must do to get ready. There is a brief overview in the Appendix for those who would like to understand more about 5G technology.

The pandemic can be seen as a major opportunity point for digitisation of essential sectors, such as healthcare and emergency services, manufacturing, and the supply chain. Yet a major roadblock remains; a gap between the haves and have-nots for broadband penetration and connectivity.

This is similar to the reports from the Asia Cloud Computing Association (ACCA) regarding the Asia Pacific region; countries such as China and India score poorly because of the disparity between the rich and poor regions. Brazil, another BRIC region, is therefore set to be a major beneficiary according to the report; $1.22tn of 5G economic impact and an increase in productivity of just over $3 trillion.

The report outlines recommendations for service providers, particularly with regard to upgrading 4G to make it 5G-ready. Policy makers, meanwhile, are encouraged to finish allocating 4G spectrum to enable a ‘clear spectrum policy roadmap and an infrastructure policy which both encourages and facilitates the private sector to invest in 5G.’

“Latin American countries must diversify their sources of income and jobs into higher value-added activities,” said Wally Swain, principal consultant for Omdia Latin America. “Activities including mining and manufacturing must become more productive and 5G will play an important role on this.”

It is too early to be definitive about how COVID-19 will change behaviors and the patterns of 5G adoption in Latin America. But it seems clear that increased demand for broadband can only help the 5G business case, especially in FWA for homes and businesses. Because of the pandemic, there is a clear need for digitalization of essential sectors such as healthcare, emergency services, manufacturing, and supply chain.

The need for better-quality emergency communications will encourage the deployment of network slices, a key feature of the coming versions of 5G. In the future of what is often called Industry 4.0, a large part of the new value creation will be around the ability for humans to remotely see, understand, manage, operate, fix, and generally interact with all manner of physical systems and machines, and that will be possible with 5G.

Conclusions:

It is too early to be definitive about how COVID-19 will change behaviors and the patterns of 5G adoption in Latin America. But it seems clear that increased demand for broadband can only help the 5G business case, especially in FWA for homes and businesses. Because of the pandemic, there is a clear need for digitalization of essential sectors such as healthcare, emergency services, manufacturing, and supply chain.

The need for better-quality emergency communications will encourage the deployment of network slices, a key feature of the coming versions of 5G. In the future of what is often called Industry 4.0, a large part of the new value creation will be around the ability for humans to remotely see, understand, manage, operate, fix, and generally interact with all manner of physical systems and machines, and that will be possible with 5G.

You can read the full Omdia report here (name and email address required)

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According to Ebanx Labs, 5G will represent 13% of mobile connections in Latin America in 2025, according to the Ericsson Mobility Report. The survey indicates the first 5G network deployments are expected during 2020 in the region, with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico to be the pioneer countries.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

References:

5G could bring up to $3.3 trillion to Latin America by 2035, says Nokia and Omdia

https://labs.ebanx.com/en/news/business/5g-will-reach-13-of-mobile-connections-in-latin-america-in-2025/

Analysis of Open Network Foundation new 5G SD-RAN™ Project

Executive Summary:

In a move that will help promote multi-vendor interoperability, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) today announced the formation of the SD-RAN project (Software Defined Radio Access Network) to pursue the creation of open source software platforms and multi-vendor solutions for mobile 4G and 5G RAN deployments. Initially, the project will focus on building an open source Near Real-Time RAN Intelligent Controller (nRT-RIC) compatible with the O-RAN architecture.

The new SD-RAN project is backed by a consortium of leading operators and aligned technology companies and organizations that together are committed to creating a truly open RAN ecosystem. Founding members include AT&T, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Intel, NTT, Radisys and Sercomm.  All the project members will be actively contributing, and this includes the operators contributing use cases and trialing the results, according to the ONF. However, the larger cellular base station vendors that are ONF members, Nokia, Samsung, ZTE, Fujitsu, NEC were silent on their participation in this SD-RAN project.

There may be some confusion caused by ONF’s SD-RAN project as it is the third Open RAN consortium.  The O-RAN Alliance and TIP Open RAN project are working on open source hardware and open interfaces for disaggregated RAN equipment, like a 4G/5G combo base station.

In a brief video chat yesterday, Timon Sloane, VP of Ecosystem and Marketing for ONF told me that this new ONF SD-RAN project would be in close contact with the other two Open RAN consortiums and distinguished itself from them by producing OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE for disaggregated RAN equipment—something he said the O-RAN Alliance and TIP Open RAN project were NOT doing.

That should go a long way in dispelling that confusion, but it nonetheless presents a challenge on how three consortiums can effectively work together to produce meaningful open source software code (ONF) and hardware (O-RAN Alliance and TIP) specifications with joint compliance testing to ensure multi-vendor interoperability.

Sloane told Matt Kapko of SDXCentral: “The operators really are pushing for separation of hardware and software and for enabling new innovations to come in in software without it being tightly coupled to the hardware that they purchase. And xApps are where the functionality of the RAN is to be housed, and so in order to do this in a meaningful way you have to be able to do meaningful functions in these xApps,” Sloane said.

However, no mention was made in the ONF press release of a liaison with either 3GPP or ITU-R WP5D which are producing the standards and specs for 5G and have already done so for 4G-LTE.  Neither of the aforementioned O-RAN consortiums have liaisons with those entities either.

There are other complications with Open RAN (independent of SD-RAN), such as U.S. government’s attempt to cripple Huawei and other China telecom equipment vendors, need for a parallel wireless infrastructure, legacy vs greenfield carriers.  These are addressed in Comment and Analysis section below.

µONOS-RIC:

Central to the project is the development of an open source near-real time RIC called µONOS-RIC (pronounced “micro-ONOS-RIC”).

µONOS is a microservices-based SDN controller created by the refactoring and enhancement of ONOS, the leading SDN controller for operators in production tier-1 networks worldwide. µONOS-RIC is built on µONOS, and hence features a cloud-native design supporting active-active clustering for scalability, performance and high availability along with the real-time capabilities needed for intelligent RAN control.

µONOS-RIC is designed to control an array of multi-vendor open RAN equipment consistent with the O-RAN ALLIANCE architecture. In particular, the O-RAN ALLIANCE E2 interface is used to interface between µONOS-RIC and vendor supplied RAN RU/DU/CU RAN components.

xApps running on top of the µONOS-RIC are responsible for functionality that traditionally has been implemented in vendor-proprietary implementations. A primary goal of the SD-RAN project (and, not coincidentally, for the operators who founded the O-RAN consortium) is to enable an external intelligent controller to control the RAN so that operators have both visibility and control over their RAN networks, thus giving operators ownership and control over how spectrum is utilized and optimized along with the tools to deliver an optimal experience for users and applications.

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Relationship to O-RAN Alliance, O-RAN Software Community and TIP:

The participating members of the SD-RAN project plan to implement, prototype and trial an advanced architecture that enables intelligent RIC xApps to control a broad spectrum of SON and RRM functionality that historically has been implemented as vendor-proprietary features on bespoke base station equipment and platforms. SD-RAN’s focus and goals are complementary to various efforts across the industry, including work taking place within the O-RAN ALLIANCE, the O-RAN Software Community and the TIP OpenRAN Project Group.

SD-RAN will follow O-RAN specifications as they are developed and will also make use of components of existing open source to facilitate interoperability. As the project pioneers new functionality, all extensions and learnings that come from building the system will be contributed back to O-RAN ALLIANCE, with the intent that these extensions can inform and advance the O-RAN specifications.

The SD-RAN work inside the ONF community will take place in parallel with work being contributed to the O-RAN Software Community. The intent is for interoperable implementations to come out of both efforts, so that a mix of open source and vendor proprietary components can be demonstrated and ultimately deployed.

Timing and Availability:

The SD-RAN project already has a working skeleton prototype of the µONOS-RIC controller above a RAN emulation platform through the E2 interface.  This implementation is demonstrating handover and load balancing at scale, supporting over 100 base stations and 100,000 user devices with less than 50ms handover latency (less than 10ms latency for 99% of all handovers).

The SD-RAN community is advancing towards a field trial by early 2021, working with RAN vendors to integrate carrier-grade RU/DU/CU components while in parallel implementing xApps to demonstrate SON and RRM functionality.  Interested parties are encouraged to contact ONF for additional information.

Quotes Supporting the SD-RAN Project:

AT&T strongly supports the development of specifications and components that can help drive openness and innovation in the RAN ecosystem. The O-RAN ALLIANCE’s specifications are enabling the ecosystem, with a range of companies and organizations creating both open source and proprietary implementations that are bringing the open specifications to life. The ONF SD-RAN project, along with the O-RAN OSC, will expand the ecosystem with an nRT-RIC that can support xApps and help demonstrate their interoperability. This project will help accelerate the transition to an open RAN future.”
Andre Fuetsch, President and Chief Technology Officer, AT&T Labs

China Mobile co-founded O-RAN in order to promote both the opening of the RAN ecosystem for multi-vendor solutions and the realization of RAN with native intelligence for performance and cost improvement.  An open nRT-RIC with support for open xApps that go beyond policy-based control and SON to also enhance Radio Resource Management (RRM) will make it possible for operators to optimize resource utilization and application performance.  We are excited to see the development of an open nRT-RIC and xApps in the SD-RAN project led by ONF, and expect this work to help advance the state-of-art for open and intelligent RAN.”
Dr. Chih-Lin I, Chief Scientist, Wireless Technologies, China Mobile

China Unicom has been a long-term partner with ONF.  We continue to see the benefits of the ONF’s work and the impact it has on our industry.  The SD-RAN project is now applying the ONF’s proven strategy for disaggregating and creating open source implementations to the 5G RAN space in order to foster innovation and ecosystem transformation. We are excited by this work, and are committed to trialing a solution as it becomes available.”
Dr. Xiongyan Tang, Network Technology Research Institute, China Unicom

“Deutsche Telekom is a huge believer in applying disaggregation and open source principles for our next-generation networks.  DT has ONF’s mobile core platform (OMEC) in production and we are taking ONF’s broadband access (SEBA/VOLTHA) platform to production towards the end of 2020. This journey has shown us the tremendous value that is created when we can build solutions based on interoperable multi-vendor components intermixed with open source components.  ONF’s SD-RAN project is leveraging these same principles to help accelerate innovation in the RAN domain, and we are excited to be an active collaborator in this journey.”
Dr. Alex Jinsung Choi, SVP Strategy & Technology Innovation, Deutsche Telekom

“Connectivity is an integral part of Facebook’s focus to bring people closer together. We work closely with partners to develop programs and technologies that make connectivity more affordable and accessible. Through our collaboration with ONF on their SD-RAN project, we look forward to engaging with the community to improve connectivity experiences for many people around the world.”
Aaron Bernstein, Facebook’s Director of Connectivity Ecosystem Programs

Google is an advocate for SDN, disaggregation and open source, and we are excited to see these principles now being applied to the RAN domain. ONF’s SD-RAN project’s ambition to create an open source RIC can help invigorate innovation across the mobile domain.”
Ankur Jain, Distinguished Engineer, Google

“Intel is an active participant of the ONF’s SD-RAN project to advance the development of open RAN implementations on high volume servers.  ONF has been leading the industry with advanced open source implementations in the areas of disaggregated Mobile Core, e.g. the Open Mobile Evolved Core (OMEC), and we look forward to continuing to innovate by applying proven principles of disaggregation, open source and AI/ML to the next stepping stone in this journey – the RAN. SD-RAN will be optimized to leverage powerful performance, AI/ML, and security enhancements, which are essential for 5G and available in Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors, network adapters and switching technologies, including Data-Plane Development Kit (DPDK) and Intel® Software Guard Extensions (Intel SGX).” 
Pranav Mehta, Vice President of Systems and Software Research, Intel Labs

NTT sees great value in transforming the RAN domain in order to foster innovation and multi-vendor interoperability.  We are excited to be part of the SD-RAN ecosystem, and look forward to working with the community to develop open source components that can be intermixed with vendor proprietary elements using standard O-RAN interfaces.”
Dai Kashiwa, Evangelist, Director of NTT Communications

Radisys is excited to be a founding member of the SD-RAN project, and we are committed to integrating our RAN software implementation (CU & DU) with O-RAN interfaces to the µONOS-RIC controller and xApps being developed by the SD-RAN project community.  This effort has the potential to accelerate the adoption of O-RAN based RIC implementation and xApps, and we are committed to working with this community to advance the open RAN agenda.”
Arun Bhikshesvaran, CEO, Radisys

“As a leading manufacturer of small cell RAN equipment and an avid supporter of the open RAN movement, Sercomm is excited to collaborate with the SD-RAN community to open E2 interfaces and migrate some of our near-real-time functionalities from the RAN equipment into xApps running the μONOS-RIC controller. This is a nascent yet dynamic area full of potential, and we are committed to working with the SD-RAN ecosystem to build solutions ready for trials and deployment.”
Ben Lin, CTO and Co-Founder, Sercomm

TIP’s OpenRAN solutions are an important element of our work to accelerate innovation across all elements of the network including Access, Transport, Core and Services.  We are excited about the collaboration between our RIA subgroup and ONF’s SD-RAN project to accelerate RAN disaggregation and adoption of open interfaces. Through this collaboration we will enable the OpenRAN ecosystem to leverage the strengths of data science and AI/ML technologies to set new industry benchmarks on performance, efficiency and total cost of ownership.”
Attilio Zani, Executive Director for Telecom Infra Project (TIP)

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Comment and Analysis of Open RAN Market:

Disclaimer:  Like all IEEE Techblog posts, opinions, comment and analysis are ALWAYS by the authors and do NOT EVER represent an opinion or position by IEEE or the IEEE Communications Society.  This should be obvious to all in the 11 1/2 years of this author’s contribution to the IEEE Techblog and its predecessor- ComSoc Community blogs.

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Besides NOT having a liaison with either 3GPP or ITU-R, the following Open RAN issues may limit its market potential.  These are NOT specific to the ONF SD-RAN project, but generic to Open RAN deployments.

  1. U.S. officials promoting Open RAN as a way to decrease the dominance of Huawei, the world’s biggest vendor of mobile equipment by market share and also to thwart the rise of other vendors like ZTE and China Information and Communication Technology Group (CICT) which recently won a small part of s China Mobile contract.   Obviously, China’s government will fight back and NOT allow any version of Open RAN to be deployed in China (likely to be the world’s biggest 5G market by far)!  That despite China Mobile and China Unicom’s expressed interest in Open RAN (see Quotes above).  Remember, that the three big China carriers (China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom) are all state owned.
  2. Dual infrastructure: If a legacy wireless carrier deploys Open RAN, existing wireless infrastructure equipment (base stations, small cells, cell tower equipment, backhaul, etc) must remain in place to support its customers. Open RAN gear (with new fronthaul and backhaul) won’t have wide coverage area for many years.  Therefore, current customers can’t simply be switched over from legacy wireless infrastructure to Open RAN gear.  That means that a separate separate and distinct WIRELESS INFRASTRUCTURE NETWORK must be built and physically installed for Open RAN gear. Yet no one seems to talk or write about that! Why not?
  3. Open RAN is really only for greenfield carriers with NO EMBEDDED WIRELESS INFRASTRUCTURE.  Rakuten and Dish Network are two such carriers ideally suited to Open RAN.  That despite a lot of noise from AT&T and Deutsche Telekom about Open RAN trials. All the supporting quotes from legacy carriers are indicative of their interest in open source software AND hardware: to break the stranglehold the huge wireless equipment vendors have on cellular infrastructure and its relatively high costs of their proprietary network equipment and element management systems.
  4. Open RAN should definitely lower initial deployment costs (CAPEX), but may result in INCREASED maintenance cost (OPEX) due to the difficulty of ensuring multi-vendor interoperability, systems integration and MOST IMPORTANTLY tech support with fault detection and rapid restoration of service.

Conclusions:

Considering all of the above, one may conclude that traditional cellular infrastructure,  based on vendor specific equipment and proprietary interfaces, will remain in place for many years to come.  As a result, Open RAN becomes a decent market for greenfield carriers and a small market (trial or pilot networks) for legacy carriers, which become brownfield carriers after Open RAN is commercially available to provide their cellular services.

Given a smaller than commonly believed market for Open RAN, this author believes the SD-RAN project is a very good idea. That’s because it will make open source software available for Open RAN equipment, something that neither the O-RAN Alliance of TIP Open RAN project are doing. Of course, having more vendors producing Open RAN white boxes and software does add to the systems integration and tech support that only large (tier 1) telcos (like AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, NTT and cloud companies (like Google, Facebook, Microsoft) have the staff to support.

In a follow up phone conversation today, Timon Sloane told me that network operators want a fully functional and powerful RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) to gain visibility and control over their RANs, but that has yet to be realized.  To date, such controllers have been proprietary, rather than open source software.

The ONF µONOS-RIC is a key software module to realize that vision, Timon said.  It is very much  like a (near) real time operating system for an Open RAN.  If successful, it will go a long way to promote multi-vendor interoperability for Open RAN deployments. Success and good luck ONF!

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References:

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/onf-announces-new-5g-sd-ran-project-301117481.html

https://www.sdxcentral.com/articles/news/onf-picks-up-where-o-ran-alliance-falls-short/2020/08/

https://www.lightreading.com/open-ran/open-ran-gets-even-more-convoluted-with-onfs-arrival/d/d-id/763425?

Chile Government Officials: 5G will NOT close the Digital Divide; Improved Fiber Coverage Needed

5G technology “is not a tool for closing the digital divide and the big problem is fixed internet,” according to Chile’s telecommunications undersecretary Pamela Gidi. Business daily Diario Financiero reported the minister’s comments in response to criticism about the country’s forthcoming 5G frequency auction. Consumer rights body Conadecus and  network operator Entel complained that the tender conditions failed to require licensees to provide coverage in rural areas, claiming that the 700MHz band above all would be ideal for boosting coverage in underserved areas.

However, Gidi said the digital divide should be closed with improved fiber-optic infrastructure coverage, given that only a quarter of Chileans with a fixed broadband connection currently connect via fiber. “This is where the greatest gap is and we have to work on both supply and demand,” she said, adding that areas where people can afford fiber aren’t covered while areas where people can’t afford it are.  According to Subtel data, 54% of Chileans have fixed broadband home access.

Undersecretary Pamela Gidi participated yesterday in the Senate Telecommunications Commission.

Pamela Gidi participating in Chile’s Senate Telecommunications Commission tele-meeting. 

Photo credit https://www.df.cl/noticias/empresas/telecom-tecnologia/gidi-el-5g-no-es-una-herramienta-de-cierre-de-la-brecha-digital/2020-08-19/141938.html

The undersecretary revealed that telecommunications regulator Subtel is currently discussing the possibility of enacting a universal service bill and even introducing subsidies to boost internet demand.

Fernando Saiz, an executive at Telefonica Moviles Chile said that “5G is not a panacea. It is a super important technology for industrial uses, robotic processes and applications like the Internet of Things (IoT).  It is useful for businesses and entrepreneurs, but not so much for people.

–>THIS STATEMENT ALIGNS WITH THE AUTHOR’S VIEW THAT 5G ENHANCED MOBILE BROADBAND (eMBB) WILL NOT BE THE “KILLER APP” FOR 5G OR EVEN NEEDED FOR MOST PEOPLE!

Chile started its 5G auction earlier this week, releasing the details for a tender of a total 1,800 MHz in the 700 MHz, AWS (1,800 and 2,100 MHz), 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands with a view to creating at least four 5G operators.

Juan Pablo Letelier, the President of the Commission, criticized the 5G auction, noting that “this wireless technology only exacerbates the digital gaps since only a few people will be able to afford to access it.”

From Ana Garcia Armada: Technology consultant  Roberto Gurovich said 5G does not say anything new.  Essentially, 5G will increase the capacity of mobile networks and may provide broadband services to people and places where wireline fixed access does not reach. Now and in the near future, 5G will be used for enhanced mobile broadband.  Later, 5G will be used for IoT and URLLC.  Chile is ready for the implementation of 5G now. but with the pandemic it is not the best moment since they need to reinforce 4G and even 3G to provide for the increased mobile data traffic that is being demanded.

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References:

https://www.df.cl/noticias/empresas/telecom-tecnologia/gidi-el-5g-no-es-una-herramienta-de-cierre-de-la-brecha-digital/2020-08-19/141938.html

https://www.telecompaper.com/news/5g-not-a-tool-to-bridge-digital-divide-chile-minister–1351137

https://www.df.cl/noticias/empresas/telecom-tecnologia/pregunta-al-experto-que-implicara-la-llegada-de-la-red-5g-a-chile-para/2020-08-21/130047.html  (interview in Spanish with  Roberto Gurovich on what 5G means for the people of Chile)

Posted in 5G

UK Buy Shares forecast: 2.7B 5G Global Subscriptions by 2025

UK market research firm Buy Shares forecasts that the number of 5G global subscriptions is projected to hit 2.7 billion in 2025. That number accounts for about 35.8% of the current global population.  In 2025, the North East Asia region is expected to have the highest subscriptions at 1.3 billion. The 2025 subscriptions represent a growth of 3391.25% from the 80 million subscriptions for 2020.

5G network coverage rate stands at 7% in 2020, and it’s projected to hit 55% by 2025. Notably, the coverage rate for all 3GPP cellular networks has been dominantly high from 2011 when it stood at 87%. In 2020, the coverage rate for the 3GPP cellular network is 95%, a rate the will remain constant for the next five years.

The 5G network comes with various benefits hence the hype around it. According to the research report:

“With the much-hyped network, the combination of speed, responsiveness, and reach has the potential to unlock the full capabilities of other trends in technology. The network will play a vital role in enhancing the full capability of self-driving cars, drones, virtual reality, and the internet of things.”

The Buy Shares research also overviewed the global mobile coverage rate by different technologies between 2011 and 2025.  In 2011, the LTE network coverage rate was 5% globally while in 2020, the coverage is expected to be 83%. By 2025 projections, the LTE coverage rate will be 91%.

The research further overviewed the global mobile coverage rate by different technologies between 2011 and 2025. The data shows an increase in coverage for both the 5G and LTE technology. In 2011, the LTE network coverage rate was 5% globally while in 2020, the coverage is at 83%. By 2025, the LTE coverage is expected to be 91%.

Drivers for 5G growth

From the data, the North East Asia region is expected to be the hub of the 5G network controlling almost half of the subscriptions globally. Over recent years, the region has undergone a rapid migration in mobile broadband networks and smartphones setting the perfect ground for 5G adoption. In general, the 5G network is likely to be adopted in areas that had embraced the latest technologies like 4G.

The 5G network has been touted to be a game-changer compared to previous generations of cellular networks like the 3G and LTE/4G). 5G mobile technology promises a ten-fold increase in data transmission rates compared to current networks. The capability will be made possible through a higher transmission frequency.

5G differs since its mains focus lies on machine-type communication enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). The capabilities of 5G thus extend well beyond mobile broadband with increasing data rates. With the much-hyped network, the combination of speed, responsiveness, and reach has the potential to unlock the full capabilities of other trends in technology. The network will play a vital role in enhancing the full capability of self-driving cars, drones, virtual reality, and the internet of things.

Hurdles to 5G adoption

Although 2020 has witnessed a significant number of 5G subscriptions, the network’s impact might not be fully felt this year. The main hurdle to rolling out the 5G infrastructures lies in the costs. The cost of setting up frameworks to back faster data is high. It is worth mentioning that the current telecom infrastructure must be upgraded and expanded. Some telecom companies might take time to set up the infrastructure considering that they don’t plan to monetize the technology.

Access to the spectrum is also another major challenge to the adoption of the network. 5G requires access to several spectrum bands with different attributes. Spectrum is the radio waves allocated to mobile operators to transmit data. Limited access to different spectrum bands in different locations might slow down the uptake.

Several manufacturers are already producing 5G smartphones but the sales are expected to remain moderate this year. The slow sales will be due to the high cost and lack of network coverage at a national level in most regions.

The growth of 5G technology appears to be moving ahead despite existing concerns mainly from the health perspective. According to critics, the technology has links to certain types of cancer but no concrete evidence has been presented to support the concern. With the emergence of the 5G network, there was a massive international review for relevant radiation safety protocols.

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In 2020, the coverage rate for 3GPP based cellular networks (3G, 4G, 5G) is at around 95%, a rate is expected to remain constant for the next five years.

References:

5G mobile subscriptions to reach 2.8 billion at 55% coverage rate by 2025

 

Posted in 5G

Qualcomm and China Broadcasting Network demo 5G data call in the 700MHz FDD spectrum

Qualcomm Technologies and China Broadcasting Network (CBN) successfully achieved what they call the world’s first large-bandwidth 2x30MHz 5G data call demonstration in the 700MHz (Band n28) FDD spectrum band. This demonstration was operated in compliance with the 2x30MHz technical specifications of CBN’s 700MHz FDD band.  It used a 5G smartphone form factor mobile test device powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System. This demonstration achieved download speeds of more than 300 Mbps and provides a foundation for further enhancing the spectral efficiency of the 700MHz band and accelerating CBN’s commercial 5G rollouts nationwide.

In addition, Qualcomm Technologies worked together with  Vivo, ZTE, Quectel, Fibocom and Gosuncn to launch the first batch of commercial 5G devices that support CBN’s 700 MHz including smartphones, CPE and 5G modules.  These are all powered by the flagship Snapdragon 865 5G Mobile Platform and/or the Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System.

On 6 June 2019, CBN received a 5G commercial licence granted by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, indicating the start of CBN’s 5G network rollout. CBN’s 700MHz 5G FDD band is an optimal frequency band to provide wide coverage, fast speeds, strong penetration, and service continuity, which are important aspects not only for traditional mobile services, but also for new vertical enterprise customers.

the rollout of 700 MHz band a commercial reality, and to enable operators to deliver a full offering including voice and data services. Only three months after the 700 MHz 2×30 MHz FDD technical standards of CBN was completed, Qualcomm Technologies cooperated with CBN to achieve the world’s first large-bandwidth 2×30 MHz 5G call in the 700MHz FDD spectrum band, as well as enabled its partners to launch the first wave of commercial devices supporting the 700 MHz band with a variety of product categories and using scenarios.

“Qualcomm Technologies is excited to work with CBN and the industry to continue to advance key technologies that are instrumental for 5G commercialization worldwide,” said Durga Malladi, senior vice president and general manager, 4G/5G, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “It is of great significance to achieve the wideband FDD 2x30MHz 5G data call in the 700MHz band with CBN. We are also proud to see the first wave of commercial 5G mobile devices supporting 700MHz powered by our Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF systems and are set to provide strong support for CBN’s deployment of 5G devices and services.”

“With the goal of creating a business model combining media convergence and 5G, CBN has been sharping our competitive edge based on continuous innovations in 5G technology, content platform and business model,” said Qingjun Zeng, deputy general manager, China Broadcasting Network. “Over the past year, we have been actively advancing international standardization and nationwide construction of large-bandwidth 700MHz networks. Our collaborative effort with Qualcomm Technologies in achieving the world’s first large-bandwidth 700MHz Band 2×30 MHz 5G call marks a great step towards our construction of high-quality 5G networks over the 700MHz band. We look forward to joining forces with industry partners to accelerate the nationwide coverage of CBN’s 5G networks which can support the high-quality development of ICT industry and radio & television industry as well as help boost the country’s economy.”

As 5G commercial devices are ready with industry support for 700MHz spectrum band, support for CBN’s 700MHz network deployment will further advance China’s nationwide deployment of 5G.

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About CBN:

China Broadcasting Network (CBN) is a Chinese state-owned carrier, established in May, 2014. CBN is the sole network operator in China authorized by the government to operate nationwide cable TV network providing cable TV, mobile, fixed broadband, satellite communication services as well as providing public safety services. CBN was granted 5G license by Chinse government in June 6, 2019 becoming one of the four 5G carriers in China, and announced plan to deploy nationwide 700 MHz 5G network cooperating with China Mobile in May, 2020.

In April, China Mobile (the world’s largest mobile telecom operator based on number of subscribers) expects to build a 5G wireless system jointly with China Broadcasting Network Corp. Ltd. next year, though the two state-owned companies do not plan to form a joint venture, China Mobile said.

Chairman Yang Jie disclosed the plan while reporting the carrier’s first-half results. The initial plan is that China Mobile will be in charge of construction and operation of the 5G system and China Broadcasting Network will contribute with funding, Yang said.

FreshPitch

References:

https://www.qualcomm.com/news/releases/2020/08/16/qualcomm-and-cbn-achieve-worlds-first-700-mhz-band-5g-data-call

https://www.telecompaper.com/news/qualcomm-china-broadcasting-network-achieve-700-mhz-band-5g-data-call–1350452

https://www.caixinglobal.com/2020-08-14/china-mobile-takes-on-china-media-group-as-5g-partner-101592501.html

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CBN Update from Light Reading Aug 21, 2020:

China’s CBN still short of 5G cash and answers

CBN’s biggest problem, and no doubt the main reason for the delay, is funding. One estimate is that the 700MHz network will cost 60 billion yuan (US$8.7 billion) to roll out.  Over 2019-20 alone, the mobile operators between them are investing 221 billion on their 5G rollouts. Even the smallest, China Unicom, is tipping in 43 billion yuan ($6.2 billion).  A minnow like CBN, a unit of the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA), doesn’t have that kind of cash.

It’s been created slowly over the past decade out of the assets of provincial-level cable TV operators. It’s been a tortuous process, made worse by the decline in the traditional pay-TV business.

CBN will run a different business model from the incumbent operators, with a heavy focus on delivering TV content.  But while it won’t be in direct competition with telcos, it will still be chasing many of the same 5G customers.

So time isn’t on its side. It needs to raise some cash and quickly find a path into the 5G business – or surrender it to the operators.

https://www.lightreading.com/asia/chinas-cbn-still-short-of-5g-cash-and-answers/d/d-id/763373?

 

 

Posted in 5G

U.S. Defense Dept (DoD) to share 100 MHz of mid-band spectrum for 5G services in U.S.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) will make 100 megahertz of mid-band spectrum currently used by the military available for sharing with the private sector for use in development of 5G technologies.   That adds to the 3.55-3.65 GHz range currently under FCC  auction 105 (CBRS band) and the 3.7-3.8 GHz band planned to be sold in December. The FCC said the latest announcement means that a total of 530 MHz in the range 3.45-3.98 GHz is set for release for 5G network providers.

The FCC said it would move quickly to adopt service rules for the 3.45 GHz band and hold an auction for the frequencies. The DoD said the spectrum would likely carry similar terms to the AWS-3 band, where for the most part the spectrum will be available for commercial use without limits, while simultaneously minimizing impact to defense operations.

According to Dana Deasy, chief information officer at the DoD, the spectrum was cleared for 5G following a 15-week review.  It will be provided under a new spectrum-sharing framework that will also allow defense radar services to continue to use the frequencies.  America’s Mid-Band Initiative Team (AMBIT) identified a contiguous, 100MHz segment that was available for sharing.

The Defense Department uses the segment of spectrum from 3450-3550 MHz for such things as radar operations that support missile defense, counter-mortar capabilities, weapons control, electronic warfare, air defense and air traffic control. The spectrum-sharing solution proposed by AMBIT will ensure the spectrum band continues to be available to the department, while it also becomes available for use by the private sector in the lower 48 states.

As part of the U.S. military’s participation, the department established a Mid-Band Spectrum Working Group that included experts in fields such as ship, ground, electronic warfare, test and training capabilities. All four services, as well as representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, were represented.

The AMBIT also leveraged technical work performed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to develop a spectrum-sharing solution that would allow 5G development to progress in the private sector, while at the same time, allow the U.S. military to continue to use that spectrum to meet national security requirements.

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5G networks require a mix of high-, mid- and low-band spectrum. The low band carries signals over long distances, whereas the high band travels shorter distances but is good for data intensive tasks. Mid-band spectrum is attractive for 5G because it can deliver high capacity and reliability over larger geographic areas.

The 3.6GHz (mid) band has been recognized internationally as a an important band for 5G, along with the 700MHz (low band) and 26GHz (mmWave) bands.

According to Analysys Mason, mid-band spectrum is the key to 5G networks because of its blend of capacity and range. A study carried out by the research company earlier in 2020 on behalf of the CTIA showed that the US needed to effectively double its mid-band to keep pace with Japan, China, South Korea and other countries.

 

                             “DoD will share spectrum with private sector to further development of U.S. 5G capabilities”

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The FCC is currently in the middle of the CBRS spectrum auction – dubbed Auction 105 – that will provide 70MHz of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band.  The FCC has also adopted rules to auction 280MHz in the lower C-band (3.7GHz-3.98GHz) later in 2020.

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References:

https://twitter.com/i/web/status/1292958910534516739

https://www.defense.gov/Explore/News/Article/Article/2306902/ambit-gambit-pays-off-advances-us-5g-efforts/

https://www.telecompaper.com/news/us-defense-dept-to-clear-more-spectrum-in-35-ghz-band-for-5g–1349877

https://www.lightreading.com/5g/us-opens-up-100mhz-of-mid-band-spectrum-for-5g/d/d-id/763095?

U.S. Cellular 5G Phase 2 in 2nd half of 2020; 5G Use Cases described; TDS broadband services profiled

Backgrounder:

U.S. Cellular is 84%-owned by Telephone & Data Systems (TDS). That is why both companies participated in the former’s earnings call on August 7, 2020. It operates the fifth-largest wireless telecommunications network in the United States with  4.9 million connections in 21 states.

Source:  U.S. Cellular

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“My first month at U.S. Cellular has been full of learning and listening – a seamless and effective transition,” said new CEO Laurent C. Therivel. “I want to thank Ken Meyers for providing sound advice and counsel. Over the past few weeks, I have traveled to various locations and met with many of our associates (in the safest manner possible). I am inspired by our customer-centric culture and high levels of engagement, and I’m inspired by the flexibility and resiliency our associates have displayed throughout this pandemic.  It is clear to me that our competitive advantage rests on our focus on the customer and our high-quality network.  Our network strength was recently recognized, with U.S. Cellular ranking #1 in the North Central Region in the J.D. Power 2020 Wireless Network Quality Performance Study – Volume 2, making this the 7th time since 2016 that U.S. Cellular has received an award. This recognition validates that our network modernization strategy is working.”

U.S. Cellular CTO Mike Irizzari talked up the company’s 5G deployment experience and future plans during Friday’s earnings call.

“Iowa and Wisconsin were Phase 1 of our multi-year 5G network expansion. And last week, we announced our next phase. Phase 2 will begin in the second half of 2020. We will deploy in 11 states or about 10 million POPs. We are working with 3 equipment vendors, and we are continuing to expand the number of 5G devices.

We have been very pleased with the performance of Phase 1. Customers are receiving an improved customer experience; our 5G deployment improves average and peak speeds for our 5G and our 4G customers. In addition to an improved customer experience and new revenue opportunities, we expect 5G to carry traffic more efficiently, improving the cost to deliver a bit. And this efficiency enables us to get the most out of our spectrum portfolio.

We expect to begin deploying our millimeter wave spectrum in 2021 to improve speed and capacity in denser areas of our footprint. Further, we expect to conduct trials of our millimeter wave fixed wireless service in 2021 in select markets.”

Editor’s Note:

U.S. Cellular acquired roughly $402 million worth of mmWave spectrum licenses in three recent FCC spectrum auctions.

US Cellular CFO Doug Chambers commented:

“From a network standpoint, we engineer our network for peak-usage periods, and the network continues to perform well. To date, COVID-19 has increased data traffic about 20% to 25% and our network has been able to handle that extra demand. Throughout the quarter, we continued our network modernization and 5G efforts, and we will be finishing our VoLTE deployment this year. Our expansion markets in Iowa and Northern Wisconsin are doing well. And as LT highlighted, we won another J.D. Power award.”

Q & A on 5G Use Cases (we don’t believe there are any!):

Ric Prentiss of Raymond James:  As we think about 5G, what do you see as some of the top use cases in business cases in U.S. Cellular territory for 5G?

New CEO Laurent (LT) Therivel replied:

“Initially, when you think about 5G, there’s going to be a huge benefit on the cost side. Cost per gig is going to become a lot more efficient to manage traffic. And if I look at just the past quarter with the pandemic, we just briefly covered this in our comments, but I don’t want to leave it unsaid. Data traffic up over 70%. And the mix of that traffic, right, shifting from – if you think about customers want to be covered where they work, live and play, big shifts from work to live and play.

And so managing that traffic and managing the cost of that traffic is going to be critical. And 5G is going to help us a great deal there.

Talking about use cases, initially, you can think about the use cases as being around high-speed Internet (enhanced Mobile Broadband) and providing fixed wireless broadband connections (which is not an IMT 2020 Use Case) to our customers. We think there’s a significant opportunity there. And you can expect to see that portion of the business continue to grow.

If I then fast forward truly long run, autonomous car, AI and facilitating some of those really high speed, low latency use cases are going to be critical (However, URLLC not complete in 3GPP Release 16 and won’t be in IMT-2020.specs).

From that perspective, do we expect to see near-term monetization of those? No, but it’s going to be table stakes, having a strong 5G presence. And then in the midterm, you can expect to see use cases around business and business solutions, think connected health, connected education.

We are going to be ramping up our presence on the business side when we talk – I am sure I will get questions about priorities moving forward and certainly around top line growth business being a component of that top line growth. Those connected manufacturing, connected health, those kinds of use cases are going to be enabled by 5G. I think those will be starting to take shape in the coming years, and I think we are well positioned to take advantage of it.”

LT Therivel replied to Morgan Stanley’s Simon Flannery question about the future US Cellular fixed wireless product and its speed(s):

“We are able to help customers and get customers connected in areas where maybe cable either doesn’t address or has very limited presence. And Mike talked a little bit about the 5G rollout, rolling out millimeter wave. So as we start to densify the network with millimeter wave, that’s going to create incremental opportunities for capacity and excess capacity to go monetize. And so you can expect to see a higher speed product brought to the market price point to be determined.

Editor’s Note:

U.S. Cellular currently provides 25GB of high-speed fixed wireless data for $50 per month via its LTE network; after customers reach that allotment, their speeds are slowed to 2G speeds. The company doesn’t provide any firm speed promises because the company said speeds “vary due to area, coverage, foliage, compression or the network management requirements.”

Verizon is the only U.S. wireless network operator with plans to deploy fixed wireless services on mmWave spectrum. The company currently offers fixed wireless services on its LTE network as does US Cellular.  Mike Dano of Light Reading wrote that  “CenturyLinkShentelWindstreamC SpireCable One and Midco, among others, also have plans to offer fixed wireless across a variety of spectrum bands, including potentially mmWave bands.”

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LT did not answer Flannery’s follow up question: “Any sort of sizing? Is this hundreds of thousands of potential households or what’s the right way to think about the opportunity?”

–>That was a quite reasonable “punt.”  U.S. Cellular’s 5G mmWave mobile broadband roll-out won’t be till 2021 (if not delayed by permits for mounting small cells and pandemic induced installation restrictions).  There won’t be any excess mmWave bandwidth to monetize till at least 2022.  The competitive landscape for fixed broadband access at that future time is completely unknown.  We expect to see a pick up of FTTH installations by then.

 

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Telephone & Data Systems (TDS)

TDS CFO Vicki Villacrez announced an innovative new “cloud TV” service for the wireline telco:

“We are pleased to report that we have expanded our launch of our cloud TV product called TDS TV+ to additional cable and wireline markets, including our Wisconsin out-of-territory clusters and expect to complete those rollouts in the third quarter.

Additionally, we plan to roll out TDS TV+ to our new fiber market, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in the fourth quarter. This is a really great product. And while it is still early in its launch, we are focused on ensuring its success across our markets.

From a network perspective, the current crisis continues to reaffirm the importance of high-speed Internet and how important not only our investments have been, but also our continued advocacy on behalf of rural America.

As a result of driving fiber deeper into our markets, we have robust networks, which continue to remain very stable and meet our customers’ needs. From an out-of-territory perspective, pre-sales continue to exceed our expectations.

We are currently installing service in our Wisconsin and Idaho clusters. We remain focused on construction throughout these communities, and we are working towards commencing construction in Spokane, Washington, where we recently launched presale activities. Overall, we remain committed to achieving our strategic priorities through the second half of the year.”

And a status report on broadband wireline Internet and TV services and trends:

“We are now offering up to 1-gig broadband speeds in our fiber markets. Across our wireline residential base, essentially one-third of all broadband customers are now taking 100-megabit speeds or greater compared to 26% a year ago. This is helping to drive a 4% increase in average residential revenue per connection in the quarter.

Wireline residential video connections grew 9% compared to the prior year. Video is important to our customers. Approximately 40% of our broadband customers in our IPTV markets take video, which for us is a profitable product. Our strategy is to increase this metric as we expand into new markets that value these services and through the launch of our new TDS TV+ product. Our IPTV services in total cover one-third of our wireline footprint, leaving opportunity to further leverage our investment in video.

265,000 or 33% of our wireline service addresses are now served by fiber, which is up from 27% a year ago. This is driving revenue growth while also expanding the total wireline footprint, 3% to 810,000. Our current fiber plans include roughly 320,000 service addresses that will be built over a multiyear period. Year-to-date, we have completed construction of 25,000 fiber addresses. And overall take rates are generally exceeding expectations in these areas that we have launched to-date. We are expecting our fiber service address delivery to more than double in the second half of the year as we continue launching new markets.”

 

References:

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4366232-united-states-cellular-corporation-usm-q2-2020-results-earnings-call-transcript?part=single

https://www.lightreading.com/5g/us-cellular-has-high-hopes-for-fixed-wireless-using-mmwave-5g/d/d-id/763082?

Dish Network: 5G O-RAN compliant, multi-vendor network; Boost and Ting on board

5G O-RAN Network Progress, but no deployment schedule:

Dish Network President & CEO W. Erik Carlson said on Friday’s earnings call that the company was making progress in  “building the nation’s first O-RAN compliant 5G network and since the last call we’ve named several key vendors including Altiostar, OpenRAN, Mavenir, Fujitsu, and VMware.”  However, the completion date and deployment schedule were not revealed.

Charlie Ergen, Dish Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, added that there’s a lot of excitement about O-RAN radios and the path that Dish is taking there.  He said that Mavenir is doing some of the software for the baseband distribution unit and that VMware enables Dish to “stitch together the cloud” with its 5G O-RAN based network.  Containers and micro services are being used in this implementation, but exactly how was not revealed or discussed.

Highlighting VMware’s contribution to the 5G O-RAN project, Ergen said:

“But when you put all that together, you got to make it work and you got to make it work on different cloud providers and private clouds, and VMware allows us to horizontally go across the stack and stitch that stuff together. And the way we look at partnerships, VMware has done a lot of work for us already even before we signed the contract with them.

They’re learning a lot about Telco and O-RAN and so they’re getting a real R&D sandbox to play in and they’re making our business better and we’re making their business better. So it’s a really, really good win-win for both companies and they’ve been a tremendous vendor even before we signed a contract with them.

So the big picture thing is there is nothing — there is nothing that stops us from building really the best network in the United States. There is no law of physics — there’s no law of physics, there is no technology that really hasn’t changed. It’s really execution. It’s really execution risk for us and our vendors to make it happen. But we’re not reinventing science, we’re not reinventing anything. We’re just taking really good cloud providers and software providers and making what has been a very clunky, hardware-centered highly operational cost environment, very similar to data centers 20 to 30 years ago.

We’re going to make it (5G O-RAN) into a modern network. So everything exists to do that. And we’re just going to go do it. We don’t spend a lot of time talking about it externally because everybody is going to be skeptical up until we light it up and then people will have their opinion about it. So that’s what we’re going to do.”

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Dish’s Other Wireless Network Businesses:

Earlier this week, Dish acquired Ting Mobile and announced a partnership with Tucows on technology services.  The company acquired T-Mobile assets including customer relationships and the brand in order to support Ting Mobile customers.

Dish closed the Boost Mobile acquisition (from T-Mo, but actually it was owned by Sprint) on July 1st and will report Boost results for the first time in the third quarter.  The company will report Boost results in their Wireless segment and will disclose key metrics such as ARPU and subscriber data at that time.  As part of the T-Mo/Sprint merger, Dish also acquired $3.6 billion of 800 MHz spectrum, which was Sprint’s entire 800 MHz spectrum holdings.

Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson had this comment about Dish’s wireless business:

“Yes, they’ve chosen VMware and few other vendors. And small, private tower operators report some Dish activity – Dish sensibly seems to be focusing on smaller towercos first, as the majors will have more negotiating leverage and will therefore drive a harder bargain. And, sure, they’ve now bought Ting, a small operator to augment their Boost business (these pre-paid businesses were acquired after the end of the just-reported second quarter).

But they still haven’t started materially building. And they still haven’t found a strategic partner. They still haven’t gone to the capital markets for financing. And they still haven’t changed their capex guidance for wireless for this year – a paltry $250 to $500M, excluding capitalized interest.

Nor have they changed their longer term guidance of $10B to build a virtualized network, a number that we no longer have to caveat by saying we don’t believe.

Save for some slowly escalating wireless spending as they continue to gradually hire the people they’ll need to run the business – although even that is going far more slowly than one would expect – we’re left with a satellite business, and only a satellite business (OK, also an OTT business) in Q2 results.”

Craig, along with many analysts (including this author) believe Dish could take steps to unlock value by selling some or all of its significant spectrum assets.  Dish has a long history of buying spectrum and doing nothing with it. As FierceWireless wrote last year, “Dish has spent roughly $20 billion over the past decade to amass a significant spectrum portfolio, and has roughly 95 MHz of low-band and mid-band spectrum per market.”  That was before Dish bought Sprint’s entire 800 MHz (low band) spectrum assets, which are not included in this graph:

Just a reminder how much spectrum Dish is holding on to, while ...

Dish has promised the FCC that it “will deploy a facilities-based 5G broadband network capable of serving 70% of the US population by June 2023 and has requested that its spectrum licenses be modified to reflect those commitments.” Dish would have to pay fines of up to $2.2 billion if it fails to meet its 5G deployment deadlines.

Conclusions:

Dish Network’s massive bet on deploying wireless spectrum it owns overshadows its declining cash-cow satellite television business. Dish reported a net loss of 40,000 net satellite television customers, half the figure a year ago as far fewer accounts deactivated service. The firm’s customer base likely skews towards customers that place less value on live sports and more on news coverage, which has delivered strong ratings during the pandemic and protests. Dish also lost (net) 56,000 Sling customers, better than the 281,000 lost the prior quarter, which had come following a large price increase at the start of the year. Price increases fueled a 7% year-over-year increase in average revenue per customer, roughly offsetting customer losses as total revenue declined 0.8%.

Moreover, Dish isn’t likely to become a full-fledged nationwide wireless network competitor, because Dish’s plan is only to cover 70 percent of the US population by June 2023. That could leave 100 million Americans without the option of a fourth wireless carrier (behind Verizon, AT&T, and the new T-Mo).  Finally, the whole O-RAN concept is unproven with no liaison arrangements between the ITU or 3GPP and either of the two O-RAN spec writing entities – the O-RAN Alliance (which Dish is implementing) and the TIP Open RAN project.

Dish’s plan of covering 70 percent of the 327 million people in the U.S. isn’t impressive compared to the major carriers’ current 4G LTE coverage, which is important because carriers admit that 5G won’t be much faster than 4G in rural areas where millimeter-wave deployments aren’t viable. Outside densely populated areas, Verizon says that 5G speeds will merely be like “good 4G.”

We are also of the opinion, that Dish’s physical 5G deployment costs will be much more than Dish has budgeted and can not be financed without Dish having to borrow significant amounts of money from the credit markets or partner companies..

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References:

https://www.fool.com/earnings/call-transcripts/2020/08/07/dish-network-corp-dish-q2-2020-earnings-call-trans.aspx

https://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/wake-doj-deal-where-dish-s-spectrum-and-how-much-does-it-have (Dish Spectrum Maps)

Dish’s 5G network plan may be delayed for years as a result of COVID-19