With a population of less than 39,000 people, Monaco is a tiny independent city-state on France’s Mediterranean coastline known for its upscale casinos, yacht-lined harbor and prestigious Grand Prix motor race, which runs through Monaco’s streets once a year. Monte-Carlo, its major district, is home to an elegant belle-époque casino complex and ornate Salle Garnier opera house. It also has many luxurious hotels, boutiques, nightclubs and restaurants. I visited the country with my son in the summer of 2003 while attending an ITU standards meeting near Valbonne, France.
Monaco is the first fully 5G-connected country in the world. That means if you have a 5G phone, a 5G connection (and therefore super-fast download speeds) will accompany it anywhere in Monaco. It sounds small, but 5G is rolling out in small areas of select cities around the world, so at the moment it’s impossible to get a complete 5G experience outside of Monaco. What drove the country to adopt the next-gen network so quickly?
“It’s the Grand Prix that brings a sense of urgency to launching 5G in Monaco,” Martin Peronnet, CEO of Monaco Telecom, told Digital Trends in an interview at the company’s headquarters, less than two weeks after its 5G service went live.
Monaco is not your usual country as it’s not very big at all. It’s actually smaller than Central Park in New York, but it’s still home to almost 40,000 people and another 70,000 people come to Monaco to work each day — it’s one of the few places that has more jobs than residents.
While 5G will bring new opportunities to everyone there, it was the annual Formula One Grand Prix that shaped Monaco’s 5G endeavour. It launched on July 10 after two months of hard work — an incredibly fast turnaround — made possible by a vital partnership and meticulous planning. Monaco Telecom worked with Huawei to make its 5G network a reality, and it’s solely powered by the Chinese company’s network infrastructure.
“Monaco is sometimes the busiest place in the world, in terms of mobile usage, and that’s typically during the Grand Prix,” Peronnet said. “It’s really one of the most challenging events to cover with telecommunications. There is so much usage, and each year we continuously rework our network to serve the 50% more usage we get. We knew our 4G network would not be enough in two years time.”
Implementing a 5G network is not easy, but Monaco was prepared and has been at the forefront of some serious mobile tech breakthroughs already — key to 5G’s rollout.
“For the last four years, our strategy has been to be in the leading position for new technologies. We were the first to introduce 450Mbps speeds on 4G, and the first in the world to launch 1Gbps on 4G in 2017. We have done a lot of work to modernize the network,” Peronnet added.
This forethought is important, along with the introduction of tech like 4×4 MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output), and key to Monaco Telecom’s 5G launch going smoothly. Long trials were shunned and the focus was always on the commercial launch. Why the rush? Introducing 5G is essential to make sure everyone in Monaco during future Grand Prix will be able to enjoy a good connection. At least 200,000 people attend the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, and as you’d expect, photos and videos are constantly shared, and the level of activity is only going to increase.
The Grand Prix didn’t just dictate Monaco’s need for 5G — it even dictated when work on deploying the Huawei infrastructure and equipment could start. Astonishingly, work began just two months before the July 10 switch-on, and the final base station was installed only two days before that date.
“We couldn’t work on the network before the end of the 2019 Grand Prix,” Peronnet said. “Because it’s so busy, we cannot touch [the network]. In fact, each year we redesign it to make it Grand Prix-ready, and when it’s all over, it’s put back into its normal configuration.”
This tight time frame was oddly advantageous, because it allowed Monaco Telecom to use the newest Huawei equipment and the latest commercial versions of the 5G technology, which only came along in June. Martin admits all this wouldn’t have been possible in a country any bigger than Monaco. However, there are still 23 sites that needed to be equipped with 5G antennas, and six tons of hardware was used, some of which had to reach some challenging places.
For example, one base station is found on the side of a cliff and accessed by climbers, while another is hidden on top of the old town’s cathedral — which required a crane and serious negotiation with authorities to place. Another antenna is on the Monte Carlo Casino, which was problematic due to specific network interference issues. Remember, all this and a lot more was completed in two months.
To launch a full 5G network so fast required hard work, a strong partnership, and plenty of trust. Peronnet described Monaco Telecom as one of the smallest carriers in the world while pointing out its partner Huawei is one of the biggest mobile technology companies in the world. Yet the two teams worked well together.
“They’re very good on mobile; they’re very reliable, and they like challenges,” he said about Huawei.
Apparently, engineers in both Monaco and China didn’t sleep for a week during the final stages of the project — such was the drive to complete it. “It’s good to know you can rely on the company you need to achieve things with, and it gave us confidence,” he added.
He explained that using only one manufacturer’s equipment is important on a small network like Monaco Telecom, as multiple vendors complicate the process. My interview came on the same day the U.K. announced a continued delay in choosing providers for its own 5G network infrastructure and additionally stated concerns over the availability and reliability of Huawei technology due to the firm’s presence on the Entity List in the U.S.. Was this a concern for Monaco Telecom? “Not on 5G,” he said. “But we are concerned. We are a small country, and we can’t influence the world. Nobody really cares about the decisions Monaco is making, as it doesn’t have a consequence for the rest of the world. We are faced with this uncertainty, and in business you don’t like uncertainty.”
“The main issue isn’t about people spying, it’s about security breaches.” Monaco Telecom takes its network security seriously. Like the U.K., it has a security center that tests infrastructure equipment. “Security applies to all,” he said. “The main issue isn’t about people spying, it’s about security breaches. We’ve been working a lot with the government and Monaco’s security agency to try and define a fortress around our equipment, to monitor individually each piece. This applies not only to Huawei, but all.”
Peronnet was quick to add that Monaco is not breaking new ground using Huawei equipment, which puts security concerns into context. “We’re not making a choice that no-one else has,” he said. “Huawei is the number one network provider in Europe, and Monaco Telecom is not big enough to help it achieve that.”
The launch will make the 2020 race the first 5G Monaco Grand Prix. Does that mean there will be specific 5G-centric plans for the race? Peronnet believes it’s a little too early for that, but is open to doing something.
“If there are some use cases that make the race safer because of 5G, why not?” This would still need the Formula One Association and the Automobile Club of Monaco’s involvement. However, he sees greater advantages coming in 2021.
“By this time there will be roaming agreements between operators, so visitors will be able to roam on 5G,” he said. “The line-up of handsets will be much larger, and the costs will have dropped. The line-up of handsets will be much larger, and the costs will have dropped.” For these reasons, he expects 5G phones to take at least 10% of the traffic during the race weekend, which will also take load away from the 4G network, resulting in a better connected experience at the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix for everyone. How about the network itself? Increasing the density of coverage outside and advancing the indoor coverage is on the agenda.
The 5G network operates on the 3.5GHz bandwidth, making it difficult for the signal to penetrate buildings. “We still have a long way to go in order to provide great indoor coverage with 5G,” Peronnet said. “It will need specific hardware, which is coming, but not ready yet.”
How about the smartphones that receive the 5G signal? Currently, Monaco Telecom offers the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G and the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G smartphones. However, while both are very good devices, Peronnet told me that Monaco adores the iPhone, and inhabitants may be waiting for Apple to enter the 5G race. foxconn china tariffs could make iphone more expensive manufacturing Apple “[It will be] huge. Decisive,” Peronnet said about the potential of a 5G iPhone.
“Monaco is 80% iPhone. When Apple releases a 5G iPhone, 5G in Monaco will skyrocket.” Apple is rumored to launch a 5G iPhone in 2020, so for now the line-up is Android only, but there are no current promotions running to convince people to adopt Android instead. Peronnet believes people should make their own choice, and that feeling at ease with their phone is more important than pushing them to make a switch. While Monaco has early adopters, they are not ones who are keen to test or deal with bugs. This emphasizes the importance of launching a reliable 5G network quickly.
Over the course of an afternoon, evening, and following morning I tested out Monaco Telecom’s 5G network on a Huawei Mate 20 X 5G. The experience displayed the promise we all expect from 5G, but has not always been evident in early tests elsewhere. The speeds were consistently impressive, ranging between 500Mbps to over 1Gbps, but what was most noticeable was the reliability and breadth of coverage.
I walked around Monaco’s main town, taking in the Monte Carlo Casino, the world-famous harbor which becomes the pit lane during the Grand Prix, and up the hill past La Rascasse and towards more residential areas, throughout which the 5G signal remained constant. Each test I performed along the way showed I was getting 5G, rather than 4G speeds with a 5G network indicator on the phone. Although I could only browse and view YouTube videos on the phone, rather than anything more complex, it was seamless, speedy, and a wonderful thing to use. The 5G signal struggled to work indoors, and my hotel only served 4G speeds, but a 5-minute walk saw 5G quickly return.
Not that 4G is a problem in Monaco, and the speeds I achieved still regularly reached 300Mbps. It’s a deeply impressive feat to have 5G coverage like this so quickly, in a challenging environment, and Monaco truly provides the first proper glimpse of the 5G world we have been teased with for several years.
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“It’s really frustrating,” said Kevin Nelson was recently in the middle of his 1,538 ha farm in north-east Montana, about the poor cellular reception. “We keep being told it’s going to improve, it’s going to improve.” NOT LIKELY ANY TIME SOON!
Plans to upgrade the wireless service near Mr Nelson’s farm halted abruptly this month when US President Donald Trump issued an executive order that banned the purchase of equipment from companies “posing a national security threat.” That order was meant to bar network equipment from Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, which is a major supplier of equipment to rural wireless companies.
The CEO of the wireless provider in Mr Nelson’s area said that without access to inexpensive Huawei products, his company could not afford to build a planned tower that would serve Mr Nelson’s farm. Nowhere will the changes be felt more acutely than in rural America, where wireless service is spotty despite years-long government efforts to improve coverage. They also add to the economic uncertainty created by the White House’s trade war with China. Farmers are fearful of an extended hit to their exports.
Huawei is essential for many wireless carriers that serve sprawling, sparsely populated regions because its gear for transmitting cell signals often costs far less than other options.
Mr Trump’s ban is forcing carriers such as Nemont, which serves Opheim, to scrap expansion plans. In addition, some of the companies already using Huawei equipment fear that they will no longer receive government subsidies meant to help get service to remote areas.
U.S. intelligence officials have accused Huawei of being an extension of the Chinese government, and said that its equipment could be vulnerable to espionage and hacking. President Trump also appears to be using Huawei as a bargaining chip in his escalating trade battle with China. “Huawei is something that is very dangerous,” he said last Thursday. “It’s possible that Huawei would be included in some kind of trade deal.”
Huawei has denied that it is a security risk, saying that it is an independent business that does not act on behalf of the Chinese government. It said that 500 carriers in more than 170 nations use its technology. “Restricting Huawei from doing business in the US will not make the US more secure or stronger,” Huawei said in a statement. “Instead, this will only serve to limit the US to inferior yet more expensive alternatives.”
Much of Mr Trump’s focus has been on the next generation of wireless technology, known as 5G. But Huawei already provides equipment to about a quarter of the country’s smallest wireless carriers. The Rural Wireless Association, a trade group that represents 55 small carriers, estimated that it would cost its members US$800 million to US$1 billion to replace equipment from Huawei and ZTE, China’s other maker of networking gear.
Nemont, based near Opheim, is one of those companies. Its footprint is 36,260 sq km, bigger than Maryland, and requires huge amounts of wires, towers and other costly infrastructure. But the company has only 11,000 paying customers. Nemont first reached out to Huawei nine years ago, when its members decided to upgrade their cellular network. With subsidies from the federal government, Nemont was prepared to spend about US$4 million on networking equipment such as routers and other gear to put on dozens of cell towers across the region.
Even at the time, officials in the Obama administration voiced concerns about Chinese equipment makers and their ability to break into US networks to steal intellectual property or hack into corporate or government networks. Defense Department officials and lawmakers said that they were concerned that the Chinese government and military could use the equipment to intercept American communications.
The officials were vague about their concerns over Huawei, then a little-known firm. But Mike Kilgore, the chief executive of Nemont, said that he had outlined Nemont’s plans to buy Huawei equipment in a letter to Senator Jon Tester, and asked whether Mr Tester had security concerns. Mr Kilgore said that he was ready to go another route if Huawei’s equipment would put customers at risk. “I was begging for them to say, ‘No, don’t buy it,'” he said.
Mr Tester’s office called him and said that it did not see any major concerns with picking Huawei, Mr Kilgore said. A spokesman for Mr Tester said that an aide had told Mr Kilgore to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other intelligence officials for advice. After the call, Mr Kilgore chose Huawei, which offered to customise its equipment and charge 20-30 per cent less than competitors.
Nemont, a wireless provider that serves an area larger than Maryland, scrapped some expansion plans after a recent executive order by President Trump. Photo Credit: Lynn Donaldson for The New York Times
Nemont has since expanded its high-speed wireless network using almost all Huawei equipment. Mr Kilgore even visited Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China. He is the president of the Rural Wireless Association, the trade group. Huawei has a representative on the group’s board without voting rights, one of two board members who do not represent a wireless carrier.
“The other vendors hardly gave us the time of day, and now they have been acquired or are out of business,” Mr Kilgore said. “We took a gamble, but we clearly made the right bet.”
The technological upgrade changed lives. Kevin Rasmussen was recently in the cab of his tractor using an iPad connected to high-speed Internet beaming from a nearby cell tower. The connection worked with software on the iPad to help direct where the tractor poked holes in the soil and dropped seeds and fertilizer.
“I can sit up here in my tractor and do my banking, monitor six weather apps and read up on things like trade and Huawei, all on my phone,” Mr Rasmussen said. “Rural America needs this so badly.”
Many companies that extend wireless broadband to rural areas, like Nemont, depend on subsidies from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Ajit Pai, the FCC’s chairman, has proposed cutting off that money to carriers using equipment from Huawei or ZTE.
“We believe that it is important that networks are secure not just in urban areas, but in rural areas as well,” the agency said in a statement. “There are currently many rural broadband providers that use equipment that does not pose a national security risk.”
Mr Kilgore estimated that it would cost US$50 million to replace his Huawei equipment. If that is the only option, he said, he might have to shut down the company, leaving his customers without wireless service. Mr Rasmussen said that would be a big blow to his farming operation. “We’re getting squeezed on all sides,” he said. “The tariffs and trade affect our prices, and now this could affect our ability to farm.
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At the Huawei Global Analyst Summit 2019 this past week in Shenzhen, China, Huawei announced its new brand strategy for IP networking and unveiled four new engine series products for the IP network in the intelligence era. These announcements signify Huawei’s efforts to build ubiquitous connectivity, release 100 percent AI computing power by using an ultra-broadband lossless network, and help users march rapidly into a fully connected, intelligent world.
Kevin Hu, President of Huawei Data Communication Product Line, said: “Huawei has more than 20 years of expertise in the IP field. We are committed to building differentiated innovative products and continuously applying digital technologies, such as 5G, cloud computing, and AI to IP networks. We believe that the intelligent IP networks built with the four engine series products can continuously empower users with business intelligence.”
“The intelligent world is already here. We can touch it,” Hu said. “As an industry, we’re at the threshold of enormous opportunity. Huawei is determined to build a world with ubiquitous connectivity and pervasive intelligence, delivering intelligent experiences across all scenarios, and make sure that every person, home, and organization has access to the benefits,” he added.
With the advent of 5G, cloud, and AI, hundreds of billions of production and office terminals will collaborate and unite with each other, 100 percent of enterprise services will migrate to the cloud and, with AI adoption expected to reach an estimated 86 percent by 2025, there will be many potential security issues to be addressed. All these trends are posing greater challenges for digital transformation of enterprises. The network is the basis of enterprises’ digital transformation, but needs to overcome some core challenges, such as how to carry and flexibly deploy enterprise services, how to ensure uncompromised experience for migrating these services to the cloud, and how to ensure ICT security. Huawei believes that the future network must be simple and AI-capable, so that it can proactive detect service changes and predict network risks in time. These expectations will drive enterprise ICT infrastructure transformation, helping enterprises reshape business models and continually improve the customer experience for optimal outcomes in the future.
Huawei’s four new engine series products for the IP network are AirEngine, CloudEngine, NetEngine, and HiSecEngine.
- AirEngine: Huawei first Wi-Fi 6 commercial product builds on 5G strengths of Huawei. It has passed the highest performance verification of the Tolly Group, an international authoritative test organization. Huawei 5G smart antenna and intelligent application acceleration technologies increase the Wi-Fi coverage area by 50 percent, shorten the Wi-Fi network latency to 10 milliseconds, and achieve an optimal mobile experience.
- CloudEngine: Huawei’s embedded AI chip and unique AI algorithm enable zero packet loss and the fastest forwarding performance in the industry, successfully leading data center networks into the AI era. Huawei campus switches stand out with the highest forwarding performance, and they build on AI-powered application identification and dynamic network algorithms to build a packet loss-free, high-quality campus network. The distributed AI O&M architecture can reduce fault identification from minutes to seconds, shorten automatic fault location from hours to minutes, and reduce OPEX by 40 percent.
- NetEngine: Huawei NetEngine intelligent metro routers have the largest capacity in industry, are SRv6 ready, and offer full-lifecycle intelligent automation. With NetEngine, one network can carry B2B, B2C, and B2H services. It provides intelligent connections and application-level SLA assurance for many vertical industry applications, building a solid digital foundation for the 5G era. Huawei next-generation NetEngine AR6000 series SD-WAN routers use a brand-new architecture and are designed with rich hardware acceleration engines and unique Ultra-Fast forwarding algorithms, improving SD-WAN performance to three times the industry average. All these merits make them ideal WAN edge routers with the fastest speeds and optimal experiences.
- HiSecEngine: Based on core concepts of Huawei’s HiSec security solution, this high-performance network security engine accurately identifies unknown threats to ensure always-on core services. It provides an intelligent defense system to protect the fully connected, digital world.
At the Summit, China CITIC Bank shared innovative practices on how to build their intelligent data center network with Huawei CloudFabric Solution. China CITIC Bank successfully reinvents their IT and data center network systems, paving the way for fast FinTech innovation and intelligent operations. CloudFabric assists the Bank with one-click disaster recovery switchover and fast completion of the network configuration in minutes. With an AI-based intelligent O&M platform, the solution ensures 99.999 percent service continuity and security of financial transaction systems.
Guo Xiaodong, Director of Guarantee Department of Qingdao Campus, Shandong University, introduced the joint innovation project between Huawei and Shandong University on campus network practices. Huawei’s all-scenario Wi-Fi is deployed in multiple campuses, such as the central campus of Jinan. The network intelligent analyzer CampusInsight is also used to improve the campus teaching experience. CampusInsight monitors the user experience in real time to ensure zero authentication failure and zero network faults. This technology allowed the 8,000 people at the 2018 graduation ceremony, held at stadium in Shandong University, to simultaneously have wireless access.
In the data communication field, Huawei will continue to build more intelligent connections, bringing digital to every person, home, and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world. Meanwhile, Huawei will collaborate with more enterprise customers in network innovation design and in-depth service practices. We believe that Huawei Intent–Driven Network (IDN) will help more enterprises succeed in digital transformation for the AI and cloud era in the future.