Telecom Italia (TIM) is among the first operators in Europe and the only one in Italy to launch the Open RAN deployment program to innovate 4G and 5G radio access networks.
The initiative is covered by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last February with the main European operators to promote Open RAN technology with the aim of speeding up the implementation of new generation mobile networks, in particular 5G, Cloud and Edge Computing.
TIM said it signed up to the MoU to commit to the development of innovative mobile network systems that use open virtualized architecture to facilitate increasingly agile, flexible, secure and functional 5G services.
The first city in Italy to adopt this open network model is Faenza. Through collaboration with JMA Wireless – a leader in mobile coverage and the development of Open RAN software – TIM will use a solution that decouples or disaggregates the components (hardware and software) of the radio access network.
The radio node on the 4G network has been built by combining JMA’s software baseband with the radio units provided by Microelectronics Technology (MTI). Going forward, this venture will also extend to 5G solutions.
The deployment of Open RAN solutions in an open environment, in line with the objectives of TIM’s 2021-2023 ‘Beyond Connectivity’ plan, will unite the potential of the cloud and Artificial Intelligence with the evolution of the mobile network. Moreover, it will enable operators to further strengthen security standards, improve network performances and optimize costs in order to provide ever more advanced digital services such as those linked to the new solutions for Industry 4.0, the smart city and autonomous driving.
TIM is a member of the European Open RAN alliance launched earlier this year by Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica and Vodafone to work together on developing and implementing open RANs for mobile. TIM said that the initiative will provide strong impetus to the introduction of the broadband mobile network’s new functionalities, in particular the 5G ones, promoting an increasingly widespread deployment and improving its management.
That consortium may be in competition with the 5G Open RAN Ecosystem, which includes the following companies: Dell Technologies Japan, Fujitsu, Intel, Mavenir, NEC, NTT Data, Nvidia, Qualcomm Technologies, Red Hat, VMware, Wind River and Xilinx.
Of course there is also the O-RAN Alliance and the TIP Open RAN project group. Yet no standards body (like ITU, ETSI, IEEE, etc) is involved and neither is 3GPP which is the main spec writing body for cellular networks.
Telecom Italia (TIM) has already deployed pre-standard “5G” in Rome and Turin and recently added Naples. TIM will further extend 5G service to another six Italian cities, including Milan, Bologna, Verona, Florence, Matera, and Bari. That will also include 30 tourist destinations, 50 industrial districts, and 30 specific projects for big businesses, with speeds of up to 2G b/sec.
TIM is in partnership with Samsung, Xiaomi and Oppo to enable an immediate use of the new 5G network. TIM will also offer the 5G roaming services in six countries, starting within July in Austria, Great Britain and Switzerland and moving on to Spain, Germany and the UAE.
Telecom Italia plans to cover 120 Italian cities within two years, or 22% of the population, it said in a statement. The largest Italian telco is also negotiating with rival Vodafone to share 5G infrastructure to deliver services at a lower cost across wider areas of the country.
TIM will offer tiered data-download packages to consumers and business clients, rather than unlimited data plans, according to details of its offers outlined on Friday July 5th. Consumers, as well as business customers, can visit the company website at www.tim.it to buy a handset of their choice with selective subscription plans.
Telecom Italia’s new logo. Photo courtesy of Reuters
In 2017, Turin became the first Italian city with a 5G mobile network after the municipality signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the company, which announced at that time that it would install more than 100 small cells in the main areas of the city. It had proclaimed that the project would start its metropolitan trial in 2018, with the aim of covering the whole city by 2020.
Later that year, another 5G MoU was signed by the company with San Marino. The republic, which has a population of 33,000 and an area of 61.2 square kilometres, started working with TIM to update its mobile sites with 4G+ (LTE Advanced Pro) and introduce features such as MIMO 4×4, carrier aggregation, superior modulation, and cloud architecture.
TIM was the first operator to activate a 5G millimetre-wave antenna in Italy, the first to offer complete 5G coverage for the Republic of San Marino and the first in Italy to demonstrate a car being driven remotely through 5G, together with Ericsson – with whom the current creation of the commercial network has begun – and the Municipality of Turin. As part of the Bari-Matera experiment undertaken in agreement with the MiSE, around 70 5G use cases have been defined and many of these have already been implemented or are being finalised. Thanks to TIM 5G, this year’s Giro d’Italia fans could follow the Riccione–San Marino stage in real time with 360° cameras and enjoy a genuinely immersive entertainment experience.
Some analysts and industry insiders think even a decade isn’t long enough, warning that a lack of cash and local cooperation could slow 5G rollout or even stall it completely outside the richest, densest cities.
According to the Financial Times (on line subscription required):
Telecom Italia plans to test its home grown “5G” technology in the micro-state of San Marino next year, making it the first country in the world to boast a nationwide 5G network. The state of San Marino, which has little more than 30,000 citizens, extends to only 61 sq km, making it the smallest republic in the world.
Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of the tiny country to upgrade the existing 4G-LTE network in advance of a trial of “5G” services in 2018. It will double the number of mobile sites and will install a network of small cells in downtown San Marino, a Unesco heritage site, this year that will provide the backbone of the future commercial network. Investment in 5G network trials are taking place around the world with carriers in South Korea, China and the US among the most active in testing 5G technology. Giovanni Ferigo, head of technology for Telecom Italia Mobile, said San Marino’s 5G network would be the first in Europe “for sure.”
It was not revealed who created the specs for the Italian telco’s “5G” network or where Telecom Italia will procure the end point devices/handsets. One would assume that Ericsson is supplying TIM with the “5G” base stations, based on a MOU signed between the two companies in March of this year. TIM wrote in a press release on March 2, 2017:
TIM and Ericsson are committing to share skills, projects, laboratories and resources for designing, testing and building the technological components of the new 5G network needed to create a complete and open ecosystem around next-generation digital services.
In particular, the agreement will directly involve the research and innovation structures of the two companies, focusing on the design and testing of access infrastructure, the respective antenna systems and network virtualisation solutions, particularly through joint participation in Italian and European research projects and integration of service platforms for testing in the field of innovative Use Cases.
The 5G system will provide peak speeds of up to dozens of Gbps for UltraHD services and cloud computing solutions, a decrease in communication latency, reducing it to a few milliseconds, reliability for mission-critical services and service density with the ability to connect up to a hundred thousand terminals per cell. These characteristics mean that 5G will become the reference mobile network for next-generation digital services (such as virtual reality) and for the industrial Internet (robotics, manufacturing, health, environment, self-driving logistics).
The agreement is part of the “5G for Italy” initiative launched in 2016 by TIM and Ericsson for the establishment of an ecosystem of experimental industrial partners, confirming the commitment of the two companies to innovating technologies and networks in support of the socio-economic growth of the country.
Telecom Italia is also testing “5G” in Milano and Torino, but has more freedom in San Marino to experiment because of fewer restrictions on the use of airwaves than in Italy.
“We need to experiment as soon as possible,” Mr Ferigo said. The work done in San Marino would play a critical role in the future of 5G technology in Italy but was also crucial to the wider European sector as standards for the new network are refined.
“For 5G, our intention is a European leadership in standardization,” he said. The European Commission published a 5G action plan last year when it estimated that sectors such as healthcare, transport, cars and utilities would see economic benefits of €113bn by 2025 from the technology. However, the European Commission does not generate any telecom standards. For Europe, that’s ETSI which contributes to 3GPP and its members contribute to ITU-R WP 5D which is standardizing true 5G (as we’ve noted in numerous blog posts/articles).
Earlier this year, Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) said LTE customers are expected to account for around 90% of its mobile broadband customers by 2019; That’s due to almost blanket LTE coverage of Italy with network speeds up to 75 Mbps and peaks of 500 Mbps in the main cities via the use of LTE Advanced Carrier Aggregation.
The above referenced FT “5G” article states:
Some countries have committed to the first 5G launches in 2019 but the wider telecoms industry is still struggling to define exactly what 5G technology is and some have argued that it is not yet clear how they can justify spending billions on the new network.
Mr Ferigo said the San Marino launch would be “very important” in defining the use case for 5G that would transform all sectors from healthcare to robotics to public transport. Telecom Italia has started working with companies including Maserati and Ducati on the use of better wireless technology but also the makers of parmesan cheese who want to better monitor the cows in their fields. Small territories have been used in the past for telecoms testing. The first 3G trial in the UK took place on the Isle of Man, while the remote Isle of Bute in Scotland was used to test “white space” technology.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.