The metaverse could be tech’s next trillion-dollar opportunity, according to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook/Meta Platforms. The business world is obsessed with “the metaverse”: the concept of shared worlds driven by virtual products and digital experiences that are highly immersive and interactive.
We already have virtual worlds featuring live concerts and online games where players spend hundreds of hours — but metaverse enthusiasts see a future where entire societies thrive in an online realm inhabited by avatars of real people.
While the space is still in early days, the longer-term implications may not be trivial. Some users — especially younger ones — may eventually earn, spend, and invest most of their money in digital worlds. The metaverse could represent a $1T market by the end of the decade, according to CB Insights’ Industry Analyst Consensus.
The metaverse is a vision, not a specific technology. For enterprises, this ambiguity can make it challenging to figure out how to tap into the emerging trends the metaverse represents. Below are the companies making it a reality:
The metaverse requires compute and processing infrastructure that can support both big data flows and low latency. Tech emerging within categories such as chips & processors, 5G, cloud infrastructure, and edge infrastructure, will prove vital to creating a seamless, lag-free experience in the metaverse.
Chips & processors: Advancements in this space will support the intense computing and processing requirements of metaverse applications.
New metaverse-focused hardware — e.g., virtual reality (VR) headsets and augmented reality (AR) glasses — is being designed to support intense workloads related to high-fidelity graphics and artificial intelligence (AI) on smaller, lightweight devices. Qualcomm chips stand out in this arena — the tech giant claims its Snapdragon chips have been used in over 50 AR/VR devices, including popular VR headsets like Meta’s Oculus and HTC Vive. Qualcomm also recently announced the launch of its $100M Snapdragon Metaverse Fund, which will invest in the extended reality (XR) space.
Additionally, Intel claims that the metaverse will necessitate a 1000x increase in computational efficiency, including advancements in 5G and hybrid edge-cloud infrastructures. That said, new chips will also be required to power these critical low latency computing networks. In February 2022, the semiconductor company released details on new chips that will support high-power data centers and 5G networks.
5G & low latency networks: 5G wireless tech will power high-resolution metaverse applications — such as immersive worlds or gaming — by supporting reliable, flexible, and low latency networks for connected devices.
As of 2022, each of the leading telecom companies in the US offers a 5G network. Some are experimenting with 5G in gaming and AR/VR. For example, in April 2021, Verizon partnered with VR startup Dreamscape Immersive to build immersive learning and training applications on Verizon’s 5G network. Three months later, AT&T partnered with Meta’s Reality Labs to show how 5G could be utilized to generate more seamless augmented reality experiences.
Cloud infrastructure: Cloud infrastructure will enable metaverse companies, especially those hosting virtual worlds and experiences, to store and parse through the vast amounts of data they generate.
In 2018, Epic Games‘ Fortnite generated 5 petabytes of data per month (that’s equivalent to 2.5T pages of standard text). In order to store and make sense of this data, Fortnite runs almost entirely on Amazon Web Services (AWS), where it uses cloud computing to aggregate and analyze information from its otherwise unwieldy data stream.
Advancements in this space will also help people access the metaverse on devices that lack sufficient processing power for applications like high-res graphics and AI — cloud computing allows experiences to be processed on a remote server and then streamed to a device, such as a PC, VR headset, or phone. While this back-and-forth communication with an external server can lag, related developments in edge computing and 5G will help to reduce latency.
Edge infrastructure: Edge computing will be used for metaverse applications that depend on real-time responses, such as AR/VR and gaming.
Edge computing enables data from low-power devices to be processed closer to where it is created — i.e., at “the edge.” This can be particularly helpful when it comes to situations that require information to be processed in real time — such as utilizing hand-tracking sensors on a VR headset or processing commands during competitive gaming. In fact, edge infrastructure companies like Stackpath and Zenlayer list gaming and virtual reality among their main focus areas.
Edge processing is heavily interrelated with cloud computing. While cloud infrastructure handles workloads that do not require minimal latency, such as loading out-of-sight objects in a game, edge infrastructure handles inputs that need a very quick response, like player movements. Some companies develop blended offerings. For example, Akamai offers edge-cloud hybrid services to a number of high-profile gaming companies, including Roblox and unicorn Riot Games.
This layer includes hardware devices that allow people to experience the metaverse. While this category encompasses connected devices like mobile phones, PCs, and gaming consoles, it is predominantly centered around emerging technologies designed to enhance immersion in a virtual setting.
Haptics: Haptic startups are developing technology to bring the sense of touch into virtual worlds.
Some startups, such as HaptX and Sense Glove, are developing gloves that grant virtual objects tangibility. Bridging micro-vibrations, pneumatic systems for force resistance, and motion tracking, this technology can give the impression that digital objects have texture, stiffness, and weight.
In the future, haptic technology may extend well beyond a person’s hands. Scotland-based Teslasuit is developing complete bodysuits to provide whole-body haptic feedback and climate control in virtual environments.
Headsets (VR): These companies are developing VR goggles — currently considered the main entry point to metaverse applications. These devices provide visual and audio content to users to immerse them in a digital setting.
One of the most popular VR headsets is Meta’s Oculus, which saw a surge in consumer interest during the 2021 holiday season.
Startups have followed suit. Varjo, for example, uses lidar and computer vision to bring depth perception, eye-tracking, and hand-tracking to its VR headsets.
Holographics: These companies use light diffraction technology to project 3D objects into physical spaces. These holograms, like augmented reality, bring digital experiences into the physical world.
While holographic technology is still in its early stages, it has the potential to be applied to a wide range of use cases, from hologram-led set design and performances to product design and medicine. Base Hologram is using the tech to bring popular artists like Whitney Houston and Buddy Holly back to the stage, while Israel-based RealView Imaging renders holograms of a patient’s internal organs to help with surgical planning.
The technology has a long way to go before it sees widespread success, but companies currently working in the space have given us an idea of what to expect down the road.
Smart glasses (AR): Companies here are developing glasses or contact lenses with AR capabilities.
While not all applications of AR glasses are directly related to the metaverse — for example, AR tools designed exclusively to help engineers fix refrigerators do not revolve around shared experiences — the companies featured in this category are setting the foundation for a bridge between physical and virtual worlds.
As AR gains popularity, particularly for social purposes, the tech will evolve into a tool that more effectively blends virtual and real-world elements — such as interacting with someone’s metaverse avatar at an event — further blurring the line between consumers’ online and offline identities.
Currently, China-based Nreal is developing AR glasses equipped with web browsing and video streaming capabilities for the everyday consumer. Others, like Magic Leap, are developing AR headsets for enterprise use cases.
Recently, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that it will seek to boost the satellite-enabled 5G media market. The ESA signed an agreement to work with the European Broadcast Union – an alliance of public service media organizations – that will enable Europe to gain a lead in media content delivery as well as maintaining its technical autonomy.
The agreement – called 5G Emerge – is a partnership between ESA and the European Broadcast Union, plus 20 companies from Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Under the agreement, the partners will define, develop and validate an integrated satellite and terrestrial system which will leverage on the structural advantages of satellite-based infrastructures combined with the flexibility of 5G and beyond 5G technologies to reach anyone, anywhere.
The media industry has been quick to embrace 5G technologies, which offer ultra-high-quality videos as well as extra fast games with very low lag times. Telecommunications satellites will play a crucial role in enabling the seamless and ubiquitous connectivity on which 5G and 6G networks rely.
Under the 5G Emerge agreement, the partners will define, develop and validate an integrated satellite and terrestrial system based on open standards [1.] to efficiently deliver high-quality content distribution services. The system will leverage on the structural advantages of satellite-base infrastructures combined with the flexibility of 5G and beyond 5G technologies to reach anyone and anywhere.
Note 1. There are no ITU-R standard or 3GPP approved specs on 5G Satellite RANs- only terrestrial.
The agreement was signed between Antonio Arcidiacono, Director of Technology and Innovation at the European Broadcast Union, Jean-Pierre Choffray of satellite operator SES, Matteo Ainardi of consultants Arthur D Little and Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA.
Antonio Arcidiacono said: “Together we will build a solution that combines all satellite and terrestrial IP-based network infrastructures, guaranteeing sustainability and quality of service. It also guarantees that the network will cover 100% of the population, no matter where they are located. This is a critical requirement for public service media organisations.”
Elodie Viau said: “It is crucial for Europe to protect and enhance its autonomy when it comes to media and communications infrastructure. The 5G-Emerge project will support the digital transformation of European society, enabling new applications and services.”
T-Mobile US said it was able to aggregate three channels of mid-band 5G spectrum, reaching speeds over 3 Gbps on its standalone 5G network. It’s the first time the test has ever been done with a commercial device, here the Samsung Galaxy S22 powered by Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Mobile Platform with Snapdragon X65 Modem-RF System), on a live production network, the company said.
5G Carrier Aggregation (New Radio or NR CA) allows T-Mobile to combine multiple 5G channels (or carriers) to deliver greater speed and performance. In this test, the carrier merged three 5G channels – two channels of 2.5 GHz Ultra Capacity 5G and one channel of 1900 MHz spectrum – creating an effective 210 MHz 5G channel.
The achievement is only possible with standalone 5G architecture (SA) and is just the latest in a series of important SA 5G milestones for T-Mobile. The carrier said it was the first in the world to launch a nationwide SA 5G network nearly two years ago. The carrier began lighting up Voice over 5G (VoNR) this month so that all services can run on 5G. By removing the need for an underlying LTE network and 4G core, 5G will be able to reach its true future potential with incredibly fast speeds, real-time responsiveness and massive connectivity, the company mentioned.
NR CA is live in parts of T-Mobile’s network today, combining two 2.5 GHz 5G channels for greater speeds, performance and capacity. Customers with the Samsung Galaxy S22 will be among the first to experience a third 1900 MHz 5G channel later this year. This functionality will expand across the carrier’s network and to additional devices in the near future.
T-Mobile US was the first in the world to launch a nationwide SA 5G network nearly two years ago and has been driving toward a true 5G-only experience for customers ever since. Just this month the Un-carrier began deploying Voice over 5G (VoNR) so ALLvoice services can run on 5G. By removing the need for an underlying 4G LTE network and 4G core, 5G will be able to reach its true future potential with incredibly fast speeds, real-time responsiveness and massive connectivity. The carrier’s 5G network covers 315 million people across 1.8 million square miles. 225 million people nationwide are covered with super-fast Ultra Capacity 5G, and T-Mobile expects to cover 260 million in 2022 and 300 million next year. It also has the fastest 5G network, according to Ookla speed tests in Q4 2021:
Note that neither Verizon or AT&T have deployed 5G SA core networks with no future dates specified.
At the Credit Suisse Communications Conference on Tuesday, AT&T CFO Pascal Desroches said Tuesday that inflation is the issue he is most concerned about, and one that he expects to continue “for the foreseeable future. It’s hard for me to envision that that’s not going to impact the consumer negatively,” Desroches said. “And that we and some others will see some pressure,” he added.
AT&T has already raised prices on some mobile service plans in order to combat the impacts of inflation. The CFO’s comments were made mere weeks after the telecom giant increased the pricing for certain older single-line individual plans by $6 per month or $12 a month for family plans.
Yet Desroches said the company may review its pricing again. AT&T is seeing the impacts of inflation across labor, supplies, energy and transport. Nonetheless, AT&T is expecting to see profit margins expand during the course of the second half of the year, as well as improved profit trends, Desroches added.
Desroches reiterated that AT&T has taken a disciplined approach to growth and investment and made the following points:
- The company continues to grow customer relationships in its strategic focus areas of 5G and fiber. Desroches said the company continues to see healthy consumer demand even with continued expectations that 2022 postpaid wireless industry demand is unlikely to replicate 2021 levels. AT&T continues to successfully attract high-value customers with its consistent, simple go-to-market strategy.
- Desroches remains comfortable that the company can deliver improving postpaid phone ARPU trends in 2022. He noted that postpaid phone ARPU could in fact edge up sequentially in the second quarter.
- Desroches also reiterated expectations for gradual improvement in year-over-year mobility EBITDA trends through the course of 2022. Following a more pronounced impact in the second quarter, the revenue and EBITDA impacts of the previously announced 3G network shutdown and the absence of approximately $100 million in CAF II and FirstNet related reimbursements are expected to be more than mitigated in the back half of year by organic service revenue growth and the lapping of 3G shutdown costs comparisons in the second half of 2021.
- AT&T’s fiber build progress continues with expectations to achieve 30+ million customer locations by 2025. Desroches noted that AT&T is acquiring new customers and seeing strong penetration rates thanks to a straightforward go-to-market approach.
- Desroches shared that the company continues to work with state and local government municipalities across the country to provide affordable broadband connectivity to low-income customers through the Affordable Connectivity Program. Over time, the company believes these efforts can help provide internet for all Americans and expand the total addressable market for broadband access. Additionally, Desroches indicated that any federal funding in support of the company’s fiber buildout would be deployed to expand its network to additional customer locations, representing potential upside above AT&T’s existing guidance.
- AT&T continues to work through its business wireline portfolio rationalization process and focus its efforts on core transport and connectivity solutions. Desroches noted that the company has yet to see a recovery in government sector demand trends which impacted the business during the first quarter.
- With regard to the macroeconomic environment, Desroches said that the company considered a higher-than-typical level of inflation when setting 2022 budget. The company’s recent pricing increases were a response to higher-than-expected inflation trends. Additionally, the company has opportunities to address the impacts of inflation with its ongoing cost savings initiative, which is expected to reach a run rate of $4+ billion by the end of this year.
- Desroches stated the company feels good about its financial flexibility, does not plan to issue any debt in the near-term and remains focused on its goal of achieving a net debt-to-adjusted EBITDA ratio in the 2.5x range by the end of 2023.
Pearl TV, a consortium of U.S. broadcasters operating more than 820 TV stations, said that it is making progress with hardware and software that wants to accelerate the rollout and adoption of ATSC 3.0, the new broadcast TV signaling standard that’s been branded as “NextGen TV.” ATSC 3.0 has been in the works for many years, but only now seems to be gaining a wide following.
Pearl TV has collaborated with Taiwan wireless telecom semiconductor company MediaTek on a reference design for smart TVs and other devices that support the new standard. On the software front, the consortium has formally introduced RUN3TV, a web-based platform that enables broadcasters to deliver interactive and on-demand apps and services over ATSC 3.0.
The new IP-based standard – which supports 4K video, enhanced audio and interactive apps – are expected to take center stage. Pearl TV’s members include Cox Media Group, the E.W. Scripps Company, Graham Media Group, Hearst Television, Nexstar Media Group, Gray Television, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tegna.
Sinclair Broadcast Group and USSI Global said they will partner to offer the nation’s first commercial datacasting service using the NextGen Broadcast standard (ATSC 3.0). The pilot program will deliver local content, advertising, and data files to the rapidly growing Electric Vehicle Charging station market.
The ATSC 3.0 reference design – billed as the “FastTrack to NextGen TV” platform – includes a TV system-on-chip (SoC), ATSC 3.0 demodulators and a software stack. It will be pre-certified for compliance with the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA’s) NextGen TV logo requirements, A3SA security (which uses IP-based encryption protocols, device certificates and rights management technology) and the RUN3TV application platform.
It’s hoped that the ATSC 3.0 reference design will open up the market for lower-cost ASTC 3.0-based TVs and drive more volume into the NextGen TV ecosystem. MediaTek already provides TV SoCs to about 90% of all TV brands, according to Pearl TV and MediaTek. The program stems from a partnership between them announced in January 2022. CTA expects NextGen TV sales to double this year, rise by 75% in 2023 and then double again in 2024.
About 70 TV models from Samsung, Sony and LG Electronics support ASTC 3.0 today, with Hisense on deck to build sets that utilize the new standard. More than 100 TV models are expected to support ATSC 3.0 by later this year, Anne Schelle, managing director of Pearl TV, recently told Light Reading.
The official launch of RUN3TV brings to market a web platform that supports interactive apps delivered via ATSC 3.0, such as targeted advertising, weather widgets, live sports scores, TV-based commerce and enhanced emergency alerts. It is arriving on the scene as the deployment of the new standard reaches about 60 markets.
Pearl TV is launching the RUN3TV platform through a subsidiary, ATSC 3.0 Framework Alliance LLC, with development partners that include Kineton, MadHive, IBM Weather, Freewheel (the Comcast-owned ad-tech company) and Google. Gray Television.
The E.W. Scripps Company, Graham Media, Tegna, Hearst and Howard University’s WHUT are among the platform’s early adopters.
“With NextGen TV and RUN3TV, broadcasters can now bring the OTA environment into the digital world,” Schelle said in a statement.
The reference design and interactive platform are coming together amid an ongoing expansion of ATSC 3.0. It’s expected that NextGen TV will cover about 82% of all U.S. households by the end of 2022. Large markets set for launches later this year include Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Miami.
Consistent with the strong fiber build-out megatrend, Cincinnati Bell [1.] said it will now be doing business in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana under the new Altafiber brand. With its takeover by Macquarie Infrastructure now complete, the company will continue to put attention on expanding its geographic reach and investing into its broadband network. Cincinnati Bell will transition to the Altafiber brand over the next 6-9 months. The change will not impact Hawaiian Telcom and the IT services business, branded as CBTS.
Note 1. Cincinnati Bell was founded in 1873 as the City and Suburban Telegraph Association and later called the Cincinnati and Suburban Bell Telephone Company starting in 1903.
“The investment in fiber, our geographic expansion, and our partnership with Macquarie mark a clear inflection point for the company. And it’s all incredibly exciting and positive for our employees and for the communities and customers that we serve,” said Leigh Fox, President and CEO of altafiber.
“The word ‘alta’ is rooted in a word that means elevated, and that’s what altafiber is doing: We’re providing an elevated connection through fiber and raising the standard of service to our customers and the communities,” the company said. Cincinnati Bell said the new Altafiber brand and mission statement embodies the company’s tagline, “Connecting What Matters,” while capturing its transformation into a fiber optic based carrier positioned to support customers over the next 150 years.
As the leading supplier of fibre services in Greater Cincinnati, Altafiber has invested over USD 1 billion into the fiber optic network and now offers Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) connectivity to 60 percent of all locations in the area. The idea is to provide the services to all of the addresses in the area over the next fibre years.
Altafiber will also bring fiber beyond its traditional operating area through partnerships with Greene County in Ohio, and City of Greendale, Indiana. Altafiber has established a regional headquarter in the Dayton market, including a retail store and business office in the city.
Fox noted that the he company’s commitment to the community, its customers, and leadership continues:
• Commitment to the community. altafiber and its employees will continue to support community initiatives – particularly those that provide increased access to education, employment, and healthcare opportunities – and increase investments into sustainability, safety, and diversity and inclusion initiatives.
•Commitment to customers. altafiber will continue to provide customers with the same great service they have come to expect from the company.
• Leadership. The current executive team will continue to lead the company. altafiber will also honor its legacy through the recently launched “Bell Charitable Foundation,” an exciting new platform for corporate giving that will allow the company to more strategically support
organizations that are focused on Economic, Environmental, Social, Technology, and Health & Wellbeing initiatives.
“We are proud of the Cincinnati Bell name, and it will always be a part of our history,” said Fox. “We are still the local hometown company, with 2,000 employees across Greater Cincinnati who are dedicated to connecting our customers with what matters most through technology for the next 150 years,” Fox said.
Cincinnati Bell is now doing business as “altafiber” in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. The Company delivers integrated communications solutions to residential and business customers over its fiber-optic network including high-speed internet, video, voice and data. The Company also provides service in Hawai’i under the brand Hawaiian Telcom. In addition, the Company’s enterprise customers across the United States and Canada rely on CBTS and OnX, wholly-owned subsidiaries, for efficient, scalable office communications systems and end-to-end IT solutions.
The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) OpenRAN Project Group [1.] has just published its Release 2 Roadmap after conducting a thorough industry review with input from both the supply and the demand sides – including some of the world’s largest network operators. T-Mobile USA, Orange, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone were authors and contributors.
Note 1. TIP’s OpenRAN Project Group (OpenRAN PG) is focused on scaling up productization of Open RAN technology driven by an ecosystem of technology suppliers, including hardware and software vendors, along with system integrators and service providers. The overarching goal of the OpenRAN PG is to streamline the industry’s efforts on OpenRAN development and to accelerate OpenRAN adoption.
The OpenRAN PG activities include, but are not limited to:
- Gathering and consolidation of prioritized technology requirements for MNOs.
- Identification and engagement with vendors that will deliver the various hardware and software components for OpenRAN solutions that meet harmonized MNO requirements.
- Publishing an OpenRAN Release Definition document mapping the prioritized features to a roadmap of releases.
- Creation of the resulting harmonized OpenRAN Product Requirements documents and definition of Product Test Plans utilized in the Test & Validation framework within TIP.
- Definition of OpenRAN Product Blueprint documents and Blueprint Test Plans utilizing the Test and Validation framework within TIP.
The Roadmap document provides a foundational framework for ecosystem alignment – harmonizing the prioritized network operator requirements, including the five European Open RAN MoU signatories, with vendor’s product readiness. You can read the full document here.
Last June, TIP published the ‘Open RAN Technical Priorities Document’ – a comprehensive list of technical requirements that the signatories of the Open RAN MoU Group (Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica, TIM and Vodafone) considered priorities for Open RAN architecture. Building on that work, the TIP OpenRAN Project Group invited community participants to provide feedback, resulting in over 40 ecosystem responses.
The Roadmap release approach (shown below) enables the execution of the Project Group activities more efficiently, while also providing a path to commercialization via TIP’s Test and Validation framework, delivering on product requirements, blueprint definitions and associated test plans.
TIP Open RAN Roadmap Release Schedule:
The TIP OpenRAN Project Group will continue to advance the requirements gathering and road-mapping process with a regular cadence. As part of the framework, the requirement contribution window will open for MNOs for subsequent minor releases R2.1, R2.2, and so on. The requirements input from MNOs will be harmonized into requirements documents and assessed for compliance and readiness with the technology suppliers.
The TIP OpenRAN Project Group is focused on scaling up productization of OpenRAN technology driven by an ecosystem of technology suppliers, system integrators and service providers. The Project Group aims to streamline the industry’s efforts on OpenRAN development and accelerates OpenRAN adoption.
In addition to publishing the overall roadmap, TIP is also publishing Release 2 roadmaps and Technical Requirements Documents 2.0 for the RU, DU/CU, RIA and ROMA OpenRAN PG subgroups. These will form the basis for issuing ribbons and badges to vendor products – once they have progressed through TIP’s Test and Validation framework – with their subsequent listing on TIP Exchange.
UK network operator Vodafone has signed a deal with enterprise software maker Oracle to implement its cloud native network policy management platform into its 5G core network. This is consistent with the trend of cloud service providers (like Amazon, Microsoft and Google) to ink contracts with wireless network operators for their cloud native 5G SA core network, thus taking over all the intelligent functions, features and services that 5G can (theoretically) provide. In general, alliances between cloud giants and wireless telcos are increasing at a rapid rate.
The cloud platform is based on the ability to dynamically prioritize low-latency applications to edge data networks, while optimizing network policies based on data analytics. With Oracle’s cloud native network policy management solution as part of its 5G core, Vodafone says they will be able to make more intelligent policy decisions and quickly test and deploy new services.
“Moving to ‘cloud native’ is a culture shift as much as it is a technology shift for a telecom company like Vodafone,” said Andrea Dona, chief network officer, Vodafone UK. “Our partners must demonstrate flexibility and agility, as well as aligning to our vision of how technology will augment and support tomorrow’s digital society,” she added.
Converged policy management is comprised of the 5G Core Policy Control Function (PCF) and the Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF). The solution helps to dynamically prioritizes low-latency applications to edge data networks, while continuously optimizing network policies based on data analytics. For example, based on the data, the solution can help Vodafone customers get the network offering that best suits their needs, be it connecting smart devices, utilizing live streaming, or enabling AR/VR gaming. As such, Vodafone can provide a seamless experience across 4G and 5G networks while simultaneously delivering a smooth integration of new 5G services. The solution will be deployed by Oracle Communications consulting.
“5G undoubtedly opens the door for endless new ways to engage with our world, but intelligent policy management is the entryway to capitalize on these opportunities,” said Andrew Morawski, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Communications, Networks. “Our 5G and cloud capabilities are helping Vodafone to build a future-proof network that is automated, easier to scale, simpler to operate, and more cost-effective.”
Aligned with the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) [1.], Oracle’s cloud native 5G core control plane features network functions, including the policy control, that help operators automate and scale to meet the expected growth in 5G subscribers and connected devices. Learn more about how Oracle is powering the future of 5G.
Note 1. Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) serves as the vendor-neutral home for many of the fastest-growing open source projects, including Kubernetes, Prometheus, and Envoy. CNCF) hosts critical components of the global technology infrastructure. CNCF brings together the world’s top developers, end users, and vendors and runs the largest open source developer conferences. CNCF is part of the nonprofit Linux Foundation.
Oracle also has similar relationships with Italian carrier TIM, Indian carrier Bharti Airtel, and other international telecommunications companies. The company currently has 37 cloud computing regions in 20 countries. It is trying to compete with Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud in the cloud infrastructure and platform as a service markets, along with its telecom cloud ambitions.
Just last week Oracle struck a global cloud deal with Spanish telecoms group Telefónica, where the two firms will jointly offer platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and applications to enterprises and public sector organizations. As cloud computing continues to become more embedded in the telecoms sector, and the wider world besides, we can expect to see many more partnerships of this type in the future.
Telefónica will also become the host partner for the Oracle Cloud Madrid Region. It is Oracle’s first cloud region in Spain, and will offer enterprises and public sector bodies there a secure and reliable connection to its range of services. It will also help businesses address their in-country data residency and compliance requirements, Oracle said.
“With Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, we are complementing Telefónica’s robust cloud services offering with a cloud platform that has seen strong growth over the last year as customers all over the world use it to run their most mission-critical workloads,” said Albert Triola, country leader, Oracle Spain.
NTT, its mobile subsidiary DoCoMo, aircraft maker Airbus, and Japanese satcoms Sky Perfect JSAT Corporation are partnering to conduct a feasibility study on high altitude platform stations (HAPS). Deployed at altitudes of around 20 kilometers, they are essentially flying base stations that can provide coverage to a radius of around 50 kilometers.
Launched with a memorandum of understanding (MOU), the study will attempt to identify the early deployment requirements of a HAPS-based network. The collaboration will investigate the use of the Airbus Zephyr, the leading solar-powered, stratospheric unmanned aerial system (UAS), and the wireless communication networks of NTT, DOCOMO and SKY Perfect JSAT in order to test HAPS connectivity, identify practical applications, develop required technologies and ultimately launch space-based wireless broadband services.
Illustration of Airbus “Zephyr” HAPS aircraft:
In the global push to further advance 5G and eventually introduce 6G, initiatives are under way to expand coverage worldwide, including in the oceans and in the air. Such initiatives will include HAPS, which fly in the stratosphere about 20 km above the earth, and non-terrestrial network (NTN) technologies using geostationary-orbit (GEO) satellites and low Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites.
HAPS networks are deemed to be a relatively easy solution for air and sea connectivity and an effective platform for deploying disaster countermeasures and many industrial applications. The provision of space-based radio access network services using NTN technologies, collectively called Space RAN (radio access network), is expected to support worldwide mobile communications with ultra-wide coverage and improved disaster resistance as well enhanced 5G and 6G. In addition,
HAPS platforms can also interconnect to the nearest terrestrial network gateway and extend the reach of existing mobile services directly to end-user devices, providing service options including as rural, emergency and maritime connectivity.
With the signing of the MOU, the four companies will discuss and identify possible future developments necessary to unlock future HAPS-based connectivity services, lobby for standardization and institutionalization of HAPS operations, and explore business models for commercializing HAPS services.
Specific themes will include the applicability of HAPS for mobile connectivity on the ground and base station backhaul,1 the performance of various frequency bands in HAPS systems, the technological considerations for linking HAPS with satellites and ground base stations, and the establishment of a cooperative system to test a network combining NTN technology, satellites and HAPS.
As separately announced on November 15, 2021, DOCOMO and Airbus have successfully conducted a propagation test between the ground and a “Zephyr S” HAPS aircraft in the stratosphere, demonstrating the possibility of providing stable communication with such a configuration.
If the group achieves its stated objectives, it will have succeeded where a few other big names have failed.
Google, which has a long and rich history of dabbling, had a go at HAPS in 2011. Project Loon as it was called, consisted of a fleet of stratospheric balloons with base stations dangling beneath them. It was spun out of Google’s ‘X’ lab into a standalone company in 2018 and launched its first commercial service in partnership with Telkom Kenya in 2020. However, Project Loon couldn’t drive the costs down low enough to turn it into a viable long-term business, and the whole enterprise ceased operations around this time last year. Alongside Project Loon, Google also flirted with drone-based connectivity. This one was called Project Titan, and it fared even worse than Loon. Test flights began in 2015, but amid rumours of funding issues and technical difficulties, the whole thing was canned in early 2016.
Meta (previously known as Facebook) also had a crack at HAPS. As part of its effort to connect the unconnected and sell their data to advertisers, in 2016 it showed off Aquila: a portable fleet of unmanned, solar-powered drones that would deliver service to rural areas. It gave up on the idea two years later after reaching the not-so-startling conclusion that it wasn’t particularly good at building aircraft.
Despite these high-profile failures, the aviation and telecoms industries are clearly not ready to give up on HAPS just yet. They even launched their own lobby group in February 2020, the HAPS Alliance. Last month it announced the successful test flight of Sunglider, an unmanned, solar-powered aircraft equipped with an LTE base station. Funnily enough, Airbus, DoCoMo and Sky Perfect JSAT are all members of the HAPS Alliance, which aims to create an ecosystem around the technology that will turn it into a sustainable business.
DoCoMo et al are undoubtedly aware of the unproven business case for this technology, and so spreading the risk across several experts – rather than going it alone like Google and Facebook – is probably better than the HAPS-hazard approach taken by those giants of Silicon Valley.
The Ericsson and HERE partnership, announced during CES 2022, will combine private mobile networks from Ericsson with HERE’s location technology, providing real-time customizable maps of mining projects.
The mining industry is in rapid modernization phase, with smart mining operations projected to increase threefold until 20251. A key driver of this transformation is the access to private cellular networks, enabling safer, more productive, and more sustainable mining operations, through reliable and low latency connectivity. Ericsson’s high-performance 5G private networks are purpose-built for mining operations. A business can deploy an on-premise cellular network for its exclusive use. For mining this includes facilities in very remote areas and underground tunnels, both of which are not typically within public cellular range.
The combination of Ericsson connectivity and HERE location services deliver true smart mining capabilities, from mapping private terrain, to pinpointing and navigating assets in real-time. By using location data to build continuously updated private maps on the HERE location platform, mining companies can create a canvas to improve operational efficiency and safety. The living map can then be used to search or track, and deploy routing powered by HERE, as well as custom-built applications and services.
“We are partnering with HERE because of the breadth of their location services – ranging from mapping to routing, positioning and asset tracking. Combining our advanced private network solutions with HERE services will give mining firms a head start on their digitalization journey,” said Thomas Norén, Head of Dedicated Network and Vice-President at Ericsson.
“We look forward to increasing the productivity and safety of the mining industry by bringing location services to Ericsson’s customers. With our private mapping capabilities, we enable mining companies to unleash the power of their location data in many important use cases,” said Gino Ferru, General Manager EMEAR and Senior Vice-President at HERE Technologies.
- HERE is now part of Ericsson’s industry 4.0 partner ecosystem providing location services in combination with private cellular networks for mining operations.
- HERE map making enables mining companies to build custom maps of open pit mining operations.
- Mapping of mining sites helps increase safety, efficiency and sustainability by enabling asset tracking, fleet telematics and analytics.
Photo of a Mine with Staircase
The partnership becomes part of Ericsson’s growing Industry 4.0 ecosystem, which includes HERE alongside numerous additional technology partners, such as Cisco, Cradlepoint, Dell, and HPE. The value of automation, mapping, and other Industry 4.0 applications making use of the latest connectivity technology cannot be understated. An Ericsson report on ‘Connected Mining’ in December 2020 suggested that 5G private networks could see return on investment at mining operations reach 200% within 10 years, with smart mining operations themselves expected to triple by 2025.
About HERE Technologies:
HERE, the leading location data and technology platform, moves people, businesses and cities forward by harnessing the power of location. By leveraging our open platform, we empower our customers to achieve better outcomes – from helping a city manage its infrastructure or a business optimize its assets to guiding drivers to their destination safely. To learn more about HERE, please visit https://www.here.com and https://360.here.com.
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