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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

 

Global Data: Huawei #1 amongst 5 major LTE RAN vendors

Executive Summary:

GlobalData, a leading market data and analytics company, has rated Huawei’s LTE RAN portfolio to be a leader in the market. In competitive analyses of five major RAN vendors, GlobalData evaluated 4G LTE base station portfolios according to four key areas important to mobile operators: baseband unit (BBU) capacity, radio unit portfolio breadth, ease of deployment and technological evolution. GlobalData found Huawei to be a Leader in all four categories and a Leader overall among its peers.

Editor’s Note/ Disclaimer:

We don’t know whether Huawei paid Global Data (?) to evaluate 4G LTE vendor portfolios or if that was done indepedently on Global Data’s own initiative.  It’s disturbing that we could not find a related report or media press release on the company’s website after doing multiple searches.

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LTE RAN Basics: In the RAN, radio sites provide radio access and coordinate the management of resources across the radio sites. User Equipment (e.g. wireless network endpoints) are connected to Nodes (base stations or small cells) using LTE.  Radio Network Controllers are wirelessly connected to the core network which for LTE is called the Evolved Packet Core (EPC).    This is depicted in the illustration below:

Radio Access Network

Source:  Research Gate

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Huawei has introduced new advances in its LTE RAN portfolio to enhance the coverage and capacity of mobile networks. It also offers solutions to aid the coordination of 4G and 5G networks and to enable new services for operators.  The Chinese IT behemoth has the highest BBU cell capacity – in terms of both LTE carriers and Narrowband IoT – of any major RAN vendor. It also offers more radio units and more Massive MIMO options than other vendors and supports a wide array of 4G spectrum bands. To make deployment easier, Huawei offers multiple novel solutions, including its Super Blade Site and Bracelet Kit offerings. And to help operators evolve their networks technologically, Huawei has been proactive in commercializing spectrum-sharing capabilities such as its CloudAIR solution, which allows various access technologies (2G/3G/4G/5G) to use the same spectrum, and its SuperBAND solution, which can improve user experience under multi-frequency networks.

This portfolio is well-suited to meet the diverse needs of the world’s mobile operators, and Huawei continues to expand its RAN portfolio to help operators prepare for the future and maximize the value of their LTE networks.

Coverage:

Adequate network coverage is an essential characteristic for ensuring quality mobile services. It becomes especially important in LTE networks as 5G is deployed in high-frequency bands whose coverage footprint areas are more limited. LTE must cover the areas that 5G does not.

To enhance the coverage of 4G/5G networks, Huawei has introduced the Blade Pro solution. The Blade Pro Ultra-Wideband Remote Radio Unit (RRU) is a pole-mountable RU that supports three low or medium Frequency-Division Duplex (FDD) bands simultaneously: it currently supports 700 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz; and in late 2021, it will support 1.8 GHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz.

By supporting three frequency bands in a single 25-kilogram unit, the Blade Pro eliminates the need for two boxes, reducing the load on poles, easing the burden on installers and making deployment faster, smoother and less expensive. Making installation easier means operators are better able to increase coverage by expanding or densifying their networks.

Capacity:

Operators face the eternal challenge of keeping up with ever-increasing user demand for data at faster speeds in the space of finite spectrum. One way to add network capacity without finding additional spectrum is to deploy greater antenna arrays, upgrading radios with two transceivers to those with four or eight, for example, or adding Massive MIMO antennas bearing 32 or 64 arrays.

Huawei’s LTE RAN portfolio now includes a radio unit with eight transceivers and receivers for enhanced capacity, useful for urban hotspot areas. The “Smart 8T8R” solution also gives operators flexibility in their migration to 5G. The FDD 8T8R RRU is hardware-ready for 5G NR, and the antenna array is software-defined, meaning its configuration can be adjusted – without changing the hardware – for example, to six sectors for LTE and three sectors for 5G. The solution also dynamically adjusts the power supply allocated to sectors according to how users are distributed. This flexibility can be helpful in allowing operators to serve specific needs on a site-by-site basis and to adapt in real time to changes in user behavior. On TDD side, meanwhile, Huawei leverages its considerable research in TDD-LTE to offer an 8T8R IMB (Intelligent Multi-Beam) solution, which is also based on a software-defined antenna and promises to deliver 1.8-2.2x capacity gains compared with more common products.

For even higher capacity needs, Huawei has introduced the “Smart Massive MIMO” solution, a dual-band 5G-ready 4G radio with 32 transceivers and receivers promising three to five times the download speeds compared with more common products. Like the Smart 8T8R solution, Smart Massive MIMO automatically adjusts the power allocated to individual beams based on user traffic patterns. This lends efficiency in two ways, since Massive MIMO beamforming is itself a more efficient use of mobile spectrum than traditional antenna arrays, and the Smart Massive MIMO solution uses its power supply more efficiently than typical Massive MIMO gear.

4G/5G Coordination:

In addition to the ways Huawei’s aforementioned gear balances and coordinates 4G and 5G networks, its portfolio also includes other solutions to further optimize the relationship between the two.

Its SuperBAND solution uses artificial intelligence (AI) to aggregate network scheduling – the coordinated allocation of radio resources to mobile signals – among multiple frequency carriers, essentially boosting network capacity beyond the divisions and fragmentation of various spectrum bands. In 4G/5G networks, SuperBAND can perform this aggregation across both 4G and 5G, maximizing spectral efficiency and, ultimately, optimizing the quality of the user experience.

Meanwhile, Huawei also offers Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) as part of its CloudAIR solution. DSS allows 4G and 5G traffic to share the same spectrum bands, increasing spectral usage efficiency; it also allows 4G and 5G traffic to dynamically switch from one band to another, regardless of radio access technology, in response to congestion on specific bands, ensuring the best use of spectrum even as user behavior changes. CloudAIR goes even further, applying a similar spectrum-sharing function to 2G and 3G traffic as well for a more comprehensive capability that is especially relevant to markets where legacy networks remain.

New Service Enablement:

Enhancing and optimizing the network are important aims, but from a commercial perspective, one of the most important imperatives operators face is the need to deliver new revenue-generating services. Huawei’s LTE RAN portfolio addresses this requirement in multiple ways.

Huawei’s Voice-over-LTE solution, VoLTE Plus, helps operators migrate voice traffic from legacy technologies like 2G and 3G to LTE, not only achieving higher quality voice service but also allowing operators to sunset their legacy networks and repurpose their VoLTE investments for the future. In addition, Huawei’s latest VoLTE solution, goes further, adding four new capabilities that help protect the quality of voice service in 4G/5G networks:

  • 5G-to-LTE EPS fallback
  • LTE-to-5G fast return
  • New Enhanced Voice Services capabilities
  • Dedicated services that allow for optimization on LTE

Beyond voice, Huawei’s LTE portfolio also supports Narrowband IoT, to capture opportunities in the Internet-of-Things space. The vendor’s roadmap also targets support for 5G NB-IoT in particular, which will allow operators with existing IoT services to migrate those services to their 4G/5G network and replace disparate or ad-hoc legacy networks with a unified network that yields multiple revenue streams from a common infrastructure investment.

Huawei’s portfolio also enables new services via fixed wireless access (FWA) products. Amid the global pandemic, the increase in telecommuting and home-based learning based on video connections has increased the demand for residential broadband networks. Where fiber isn’t available, FWA is vital in building these residential networks. Huawei’s LTE-based FWA solutions have achieved enviable momentum in the market. The vendor has also added 4G/5G customer premises equipment to its portfolio, giving these networks a future-proof migration path to continued service enablement.

Conclusion

Huawei’s LTE RAN portfolio continues to evolve in order to help operators maximize the value of their networks as they prepare for the future. New solutions in the portfolio enhance the coverage and capacity of LTE networks as well as maximize network efficiency by coordinating 4G and 5G operations. Meanwhile, Huawei offers multiple solutions aimed at enabling the delivery of additional services that can help operators grow revenue in a variety of ways, including VoLTE, the Internet of Things and FWA.

SOURCE:  GlobalData

Reference:

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/globaldata-lte-ran-innovation-and-competitiveness-insight-301202706.html

 

India to start long delayed spectrum auction on March 1st

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

Editors Note:

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

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

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

ETD-1-07012021

SOURCE:  Economic Times of India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

EU nations divided on 5G security, auditors say

Auditors to probe EU’s 5G network plans

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

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

 

Lumen Technologies to empower customers to set up the wavelength subnetworks

Ed Morche, president of strategic enterprise and government markets at Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink) was interviewed by Citi’s Mike Rollins  at the Citi 2021 Global TMT West Virtual Conference.  Mr. Morche said that Lumen will offer a wavelength topology tool in beta over the coming weeks in order to help its enterprise customers work in a more seamless fashion.  The company’s top priority was to constantly improve the customer experience for enterprises. The focus on customer experience is part of Lumen’s digital first strategy, which includes customers ordering, operating and interacting with Lumen on their own terms.

“So making sure that our products and capabilities are completely digitally enabled so that our customers externally can choose when and how they interact with us,” said Morche when explaining Lumen’s digital first strategy. “They’re not reliant on human interaction. We’re here for them if they want us to be. But for those customers who are more independent, or want to work different hours, or just want to be on their own, (we’re) ensuring that they can do that in a very seamless way. And then internally, that allows for a lot of bureaucracy and optics to move out of the organization and into more creative roles,” he added.

Lumen launched hyper WAN last year, which allows customers to go online to order SD-WAN and MPLS services at the same time with security, hyper DDoS—which allows customers to either work with Lumen’s SoC or order it online— and dynamic capacity without going through Lumen’s sales team.

“Then what we’ll see coming from us in beta in the next couple of weeks is a wave topology tool, which I’m really excited about,” Morche said. “So we operate, I would say the largest network in the world, but I’ll say it here, it’s one of the largest networks in the world, and wavelength is a huge part of what we provide to our customers. So they might interact with us looking to provide their own diversity. They already have a route from somebody else, (but) they want to purchase diversity from us.”

Morche said normally customers would work directly with Lumen’s sales team and a sales engineer on setting up their wavelength topologies.

“There would be a lot of collaboration back and forth, or they may want to build an entire diverse wavelength backbone on their own,” Morche said. “So we have opened up the fabric of our network so our customers can see all the points that they can set up wavelengths, all the different routes between those points, and where we have capacity.”

“The customer says ‘Yes, that’s what I want,’ and we authorize that. It flows through into delivery and into assurance. So that tool, from the very beginning of customer interaction, collaborating with us using our network, but not necessarily our people, flows all the way through as an ‘as built’ to the very end.”

If a customer loses its diversity, Morche said Lumen automatically creates a trouble ticket and starts working on the problem as it notifies the customer.  “That automatic auditing of capability, that intelligent networking, that unearthing of capability and network is so important to improving customer experience,” Morche said. “So that’s really the first thing that we’re focused on.”

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Chris Wallendal  wrote in a Seeking Alpha column: “Lumen is investing in new capabilities and services to target the large client International and Global Accounts Management (“IGAM”) and Enterprise segments with their extensive networks. The Small and Medium Business (“SMB”) segment is challenged for growth by a large portion of legacy voice services, while the wholesale segment is volatile and faces commodity like competitive pressures. The Consumer segment is still working off no longer supported video and legacy wireline services, but its largest revenue comes from broadband services which is showing growth from demand for high bandwidth (>100Mbps) customers.”

References:

https://kvgo.com/citi/lumen-technologies-january-2021

https://www.lumen.com/en-us/home.html

https://www.fiercetelecom.com/telecom/lumen-tees-up-wavelength-topology-tool-to-enable-a-more-dynamic-customer-experience

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4396578-shedding-light-on-lumen-technologies

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Getty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                     Graph Credit: RootMetrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trendforce: Global Smartphone Market to Reach 1.36 Billion Units in 2021 as Samsung regains #1 position

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

The top six smartphone brands ranked by production volume for 2020, in order, are Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo. The most glaring change from the previous year is Huawei’s market share.

Thanks to the Chinese government’s aggressive push for 5G commercialization in 2020, global 5G smartphone production for the year reached about 240 million units, a 19% penetration rate, with Chinese brands accounting for almost a 60% market share. While 5G will remain a major topic in the smartphone market this year, various countries will also resume their 5G infrastructure build-out, and mobile processor manufacturers will continue to release entry-level and mid-range 5G chips. As such, the penetration rate of 5G smartphones is expected to undergo a rapid increase to 37% in 2021, for a yearly production of about 500 million units.

Global smartphone production was projected to increase 9 percent on-year to 1.36 billion units in 2021.  Trendforce predicted that device replacement demand and growth in emerging markets will lead to gradual recovery of the smartphone market.

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TrendForce indicates that smartphone brands’ recent bullish outlook towards the 2021 market and their attempt to secure more semiconductor supplies by increasing their smartphone production targets can potentially lead these brands to overbook certain components at foundries. However, smartphone brands may adjust their component inventories from 2Q21 to 3Q21 and reduce their semiconductor procurement activities if actual sales performances fall short of expectations, or if component bottlenecks remain unresolved, leading to a widening inventory gap between bottlenecked and non-bottlenecked parts. Even so, TrendForce still forecasts an above-90% capacity utilization rate for foundries in 2021.

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References:

http://www.trendforce.com/presscenter/news/20210105-10630.html

Assessment of COVID-19 impact on telecom industry; C-Band Spectrum Update

COVID-19 Impact on Telcos:

Source:  Analysys Mason  

The telecommunications industry has suffered limited damage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Revenue figures for most network operators have fallen slightly, but few have encountered anything that is particularly severe or long-lasting. As a result, few telcos have made significant changes to their strategy.

However, some aspects of the telecoms sector have been significantly affected by the pandemic. The most obvious is business services; revenue in this segment declined sharply for most operators in 2020 and prospects for 2021 are uncertain. Operators may have to rethink important parts of their strategies related to these aspects.

The telecoms industry has been affected by the pandemic in many different ways, and have been grouped these into three main categories depicted in the figure below:

                    Summary of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the telecoms industry

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Assumptions of a stable economy and a continuation of existing service and technology trends often underpin an operator’s strategic plan. For some of the services offered by operators, business services in particular, these assumptions look outdated and may need a rethink.

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C-Band Auction Update:

Source: MoffettNathanson Research

Heading into the FCC’s C-Band auction, Wall Street analysts saw Verizon as the leading bidder for 5G wireless radio spectrum. Bidding for licensed spectrum in the telecom industry’s most expensive auction ever reached more than $75 billion on Monday amid speculation over how much each of the big wireless telcos and cable companies have paid.

In a note to clients, analyst/colleague Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson is assuming that Verizon will end up being the largest buyer at the ongoing auction of mid-band spectrum targeted for new 5G deployments.  As a result, Verizon’s balance sheet will be more heavily burdened and more of their future cash flows will be diverted to debt service so their future profits will be lower.

AT&T, on the other hand, will “be disadvantaged for a generation” if they don’t get a significant chunk of the mid-band spectrum being auctioned.  Craig believes that AT&T was probably “one of the two big bidders that more or less backed away after round 24 or round 38.”

An important issue is “whether “winners” in this auction acquired reasonably uniform contiguous blocks, or whether they instead (worst case scenario) ended up with a patchwork of licenses and a hefty bill to burden the balance sheet. If so, will their footprints be largely erased by subsequent topping bids from others.”

With respect to using the purchased mid-band spectrum for accelerated 5G deployments, Craig wrote: “At best, the huge sums paid here for spectrum risk displacing the capital investment needed to put the acquired spectrum to use. At worst, they risk financially destabilizing one or more players.”

In conclusion, Craig asks if the large amounts of money being spent for an asset (licensed mid-band spectrum) that is best thought of as simply maintaining the status quo will be worth the price paid?  “Again, the most important question is this: is anyone going to change their revenue forecast just because the industry had to spend twice as much as expected to buy spectrum for 5G.”

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References:

https://www.analysysmason.com/research/content/comments/post-pandemic-landscape-ren02-ren01-rdmz0-rdmm0-rdmb0-rdmd0-rdmv0-rdmy0-rdcs0-rdvs0/

Mid-band Spectrum for 5G: FCC C-Band Auction at $70B Shattering Records