Vodafone and Google Cloud today announced a new, six-year strategic partnership to drive the use of reliable and secure data analytics, insights, and learnings to support the introduction of new digital products and services for Vodafone customers simultaneously worldwide.
In a significant expansion of their existing agreement, Vodafone and Google Cloud will jointly build a powerful new integrated data platform with the added capability of processing and moving huge volumes of data globally from multiple systems into the cloud.
The platform, called ‘Nucleus‘, will house a new system – ‘Dynamo‘ – which will drive data throughout Vodafone to enable it to more quickly offer its customers new, personalized products and services across multiple markets. Dynamo will allow Vodafone to tailor new connectivity services for homes and businesses through the release of smart network features, such as providing a sudden broadband speed boost.
Capable of processing around 50 terabytes of data per day, equivalent to 25,000 hours of HD film (and growing), both Nucleus and Dynamo, which are industry firsts, are being built in-house by Vodafone and Google Cloud specialist teams. Up to 1,000 employees of both companies located in Spain, the UK, and the United States are collaborating on the project.
Vodafone has already identified more than 700 use-cases to deliver new products and services quickly across Vodafone’s markets, support fact-based decision-making, reduce costs, remove duplication of data sources, and simplify and centralize operations. The speed and ease with which Vodafone’s operating companies in multiple countries can access its data analytics, intelligence, and machine-learning capabilities will also be vastly improved.
By generating more detailed insight and data-driven analysis across the organization and with its partners, Vodafone customers around the world can have a better and more enriched experience. Some of the key benefits include:
- Enhancing Vodafone’s mobile, fixed, and TV content and connectivity services through the instantaneous availability of highly personalized rewards, content, and applications. For example, a consumer might receive a sudden broadband speed boost based on personalized individual needs.
- Increasing the number of smart network services in its Google Cloud footprint from eight markets to the entire Vodafone footprint. This allows Vodafone to precisely match network roll-out to consumer demand, increase capacity at critical times, and use machine learning to predict, detect, and fix issues before customers are aware of them.
- Empowering data scientists to collaborate on key environmental and health issues in 11 countries using automated machine learning tools. Vodafone is already assisting governments and aid organisations, upon their request, with secure, anonymised, and aggregated movement data to tackle COVID-19. This partnership will further improve Vodafone’s ability to provide deeper insights, in accordance with local laws and regulations, into the spread of disease through intelligent analytics across a wider geographical area.
- Providing a complete digital replica of many of Vodafone’s internal support functions using artificial intelligence and advanced analytics. Called a digital twin, it enables analytic models on Google Cloud to improve response times to enquiries and predict future demand. The system will also support a digital twin of Vodafone’s vast digital infrastructure worldwide.
- In addition, Vodafone will re-platform its entire SAP environment to Google Cloud, including the migration of its core SAP workloads and key corporate SAP modules such as SAP Central Finance.
Johan Wibergh, Chief Technology Officer for Vodafone, said: “Vodafone is building a powerful foundation for a digital future. We have vast amounts of data which, when securely processed and made available across our footprint using the collective power of Vodafone and Google Cloud’s engineering expertise, will transform our services, to our customers and governments, and the societies where they live and serve.”
Thomas Kurian, CEO at Google Cloud, commented: “Telecommunications firms are increasingly differentiating their customer experiences through the use of data and analytics, and this has never been more important than during the current pandemic. We are thrilled to be selected as Vodafone’s global strategic cloud partner for analytics and SAP, and to co-innovate on new products that will accelerate the industry’s digital transformation.”
Revenues at Google’s Cloud business grew 46% this past quarter. However, Google continues to be a distant third to Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud business.
All data generated by Vodafone in the markets in which it operates is stored and processed in the required Google Cloud facilities as per local jurisdiction requirements and in accordance with local laws and regulations. Customer permissions and Vodafone’s own rigorous security and privacy by design processes also apply.
On the back of their collaborative work, Vodafone and Google Cloud will also explore opportunities to provide consultancy services, offered either jointly or independently, to other multi-national organizations and businesses.
The platform is being built using the latest hybrid cloud technologies from Google Cloud to facilitate the rapid standardization and movement of data in both Vodafone’s physical data centers and onto Google Cloud. Dynamo will direct all of Vodafone’s worldwide data, extracting, encrypting, and anonymizing the data from source to cloud and back again, enabling intelligent data analysis and generating efficiencies and insight.
Equinix and Vodafone have announced plans to build a new subsea cable hub in the northern Italian port of Genoa, to be called GN1.
Under the deal, Vodafone will land the 2Africa cable system at Genoa and use Equinix’s GN1 facility as a strategic interconnection point for the subsea cable system, with a connection on to Milan and the rest of Europe.
The partners said the EUR 1 billion 2Africa cable will be ready for service in 2023, a 37,000 km system circumnavigating the continent of Africa and directly connecting 16 countries in Africa to Europe and the Middle East, with a design capacity of up to 180 Tbps on key segments. To facilitate interconnection, GN1 will have a direct fiber connection to ML5, the soon-to-be opened Equinix flagship data center in Milan.
The newly-announced GN1 hub will be Genoa’s first carrier-neutral data center, offering customers secure colocation and interconnection services, as well as the ability to directly tap into Equinix’s digital ecosystems and colocation facilities in Milan. It will provide a capacity of 150 cabinet equivalents, and colocation space of around 560 square meters.
The combination of 2Africa’s landing in the new Genoa site and the direct connection to Milan means GN1 will offer a new, complementary and diverse alternative option for the Mediterranean region. As Genoa’s first carrier-neutral data center, GN1 will offer customers secure, resilient colocation and interconnection services, as well as the ability to directly leverage Equinix’s digital ecosystems and colocation facilities in Milan. It will provide a capacity of 150 cabinet equivalents, and colocation space of approximately 6,000 square feet (560 square meters).
2Africa is expected to deliver more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa today, with a design capacity of up to 180 Tbps on key segments of the system. This will be vital to help build a digital society ready for services that require a large amount of data transfer, such as cloud computing or video.
The need for robust digital infrastructures can be seen across the world, and Africa is no exception. The continent is experiencing a critical period of digital transformation and development of its digital economy. In the next few years, digital technologies are expected to be a factor in improving African people’s quality of life and driving economic development in the region.
The GSMA predicts that the number of mobile internet users in Africa will continue to grow rapidly, primarily due to the popularization of smartphones and lack of fixed-line infrastructure, which has led to a boom of new services such as mobile payment, instant messaging, online streaming media and short video.
- The 2Africa project includes partners from China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC. The cable system will underpin digitization across the African continent by bringing greater capacity, quality and availability of internet connectivity between Africa and the rest of the world.
- Responsibility for landing the 2Africa cable is split between the 2Africa parties depending on location. Vodafone is leading all European landings, along with selected other sites.
- As the home of the interconnected cloud®, Equinix is a natural destination for subsea cable systems and a gateway to new opportunities for system operators and their customers. Equinix hosts over 2,950 cloud and IT service providers on its global platform and can support subsea cable systems in 40 subsea-enabled metros around the world. When subsea cable systems are linked to cloud and content ecosystems on Platform Equinix®, users can access a variety of scalable cloud services almost anywhere they need to be. And because Equinix is carrier-neutral, subsea system operators can offer excess network capacity to customers who otherwise couldn’t as quickly or efficiently reach the markets being served by new subsea architectures.
- GN1 is being built in line with global environmental standards and will contribute to a portfolio of some of the most energy-efficient data centers in the world. Indeed, GN1 is expected to utilize 100% renewable energy. As the world’s digital infrastructure company, Equinix is working to protect, connect and power a more sustainable digital world by proactively addressing its ESG impacts. Equinix recently scored the highest rating on its first response to the DPP’s Committed to Sustainability survey, and joined European cloud infrastructure and data center providers and European trade associations to form the Climate Neutral Data Centre Operator Pact and Self-Regulatory Initiative.
- ML5 will be a new flagship International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data center in Milan that offers state-of-the-art colocation, as well as a host of advanced interconnection services—including Equinix Fabric™ and Equinix Internet Exchange®—enabling virtual interconnections to some of the largest cloud providers in the world, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and Google Cloud. When opened, ML5 will provide capacity of 500 cabinet equivalents and colocation space of approximately 15,000 square feet (1,400 square meters).
- The Global Interconnection Index (GXI) Volume 4, a market study recently published by Equinix, forecasts that overall interconnection bandwidth—the measure of private connectivity for the transfer of data between organizations—will achieve a 45% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2019 to 2023, globally. The expected growth is driven by digital transformation, and specifically by greater demands from enterprises extending their digital infrastructure from centralized locations to distributed edge locations.
- Nick Gliddon, Director, Vodafone Carrier Services:
“The 2Africa project is vitally important to improving connectivity between Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and will also improve intra-European connectivity. By linking Spain and Portugal directly to Genoa and Milan, the system will avoid fiber bottlenecks that naturally occur between France and Spain, further strengthening Vodafone’s Gigabit networks.”
- Emmanuel Becker, Managing Director, Italy, Equinix:
“Italy is an important growth market for Equinix in EMEA, as it’s a strategic interconnection point for the region and beyond. We are working to give our customers improved access to the expanding global subsea cable network, so they have increased opportunities to expand internationally. Thanks also to the opening of our new data center in Milan, ML5, we are creating an interconnected metro area where customers can connect with strategic business partners in Italy and across the world.”
- Eugene Bergen Henegouwen, President, EMEA, Equinix:
“I am thrilled we are adding a new metro to our EMEA portfolio. Equinix’s Genoa site provides a great landing hub for subsea cable operators, whilst at the same time boosting the digital ecosystems at our recently announced Milan flagship, ML5. Equinix continues to focus on expanding its position as a global connectivity service provider. Our commitment is always to support the increasing demands we’re seeing from companies globally to accelerate their digital transformation. We’re helping businesses connect to everything they need to succeed, and will continue to do so.”
- Marco Bucci, Mayor of Genoa City:
“We are very excited to be the host city for the new subsea hub GN1, that will serve as a landing point for the 2Africa cable in the north of Italy. Genoa is known for the central role it has played in maritime trade for many centuries. Thanks to GN1, the city will become one of the main digital harbors of Europe, and play a key role in global data transfer.”
Vodafone has made a major commitment to use Open RAN at about 2,600 mobile base stations currently served by Huawei. That’s about 35% of the Chinese telecom equipment vendor’s installed base within Vodafone’s network, according to a spokesperson for the UK service provider after it was reported by the Financial Times (subscription required).
Approximately 2,600 sites in rural Wales and the south west of England will be switched to OpenRAN by the government-imposed deadline, a process that will commence in 2022. Vodafone wants to be viewed as a trailblazer for OpenRAN, which increasingly looks like the most likely source of telecoms vendor diversity in the wake of Huawei’s blacklisting by the U.S., UK and other countries.
“This commitment can get Open RAN ready for prime time,” Scott Petty, chief technology officer at Vodafone UK, told the Financial Times. He added that although open RAN was still a nascent technology more suited to rural coverage than dense urban areas, including such a large chunk of its network would create an opportunity for it to push into the mainstream. Spanish telecom operator Telefónica is also exploring greater use of open RAN systems for future upgrades.
Vodafone’s plan represents a boost for the UK government, after a task force launched to help strip Huawei equipment out of the country’s 5G networks by 2027 identified open RAN as a potential growth opportunity for the UK. It could also support a government ambition to rebuild a foothold in the telecoms equipment market if growing Open RAN use is used to justify research and development subsidies and companies in the field based themselves in Britain.
“The UK could regain a foothold which it hasn’t had since the break-up of Marconi,” said Mr Petty, referring to the collapsed British telco. Recommended Huawei Technologies Huawei develops plan for chip plant to help beat US sanctions US companies Mavenir, Parallel Wireless and Altiostar have emerged as open RAN specialists in recent years, hoping to compete with larger companies, while hardware vendors like Samsung, NEC and Fujitsu are hoping to win market share as Huawei kit is removed. The move to ban Huawei, the world’s biggest telecoms equipment maker, from 5G networks has meant networks have turned to Ericsson and Nokia to fill the void.
BT has signed deals with both the Ericsson and Nokia to replace Huawei base stations over time, putting the cost of complying with the government phase out at £500m. Ian Livingston, the former BT chief executive and trade minister heading up the government’s telecoms task force, told MPs last week that the push to foster Open RAN would grant telecoms companies a greater choice of vendors in the wake of the Huawei ban and avoid a bottleneck in the supply chain. Using Open RAN is a more costly exercise which has led to some calls within the industry for more financial support. Mr Petty said this need not be in the form of direct subsidies to use the equipment but could be directed at speeding up the development of chips and software to compete with established companies such as Huawei.
Vodafone’s pledge to use emerging open RAN tech for at least 2,600 masts and rooftops is the largest confirmed promise made by a European carrier © Alamy Stock Photo
Analysis & Opinion:
Vodafone is likely interested in Open RAN because that could boost supplier diversity in a market where there are currently few viable alternatives to the giant kit vendors. Trials in various geographies have already been carried out with Mavenir and Parallel Wireless, two U.S. developers of Open RAN software. Many telecom operators have complained that today’s systems force them to rely on one company for all the RAN technologies at a particular site. Thanks to other “virtualization” schemes, they would be able to run open RAN software on commoditized, general-purpose equipment.
Vodafone hasn’t named any of the vendors that will help it with this initiative. Telecoms.com was told that it’s committing a fair bit to OpenRAN R&D and that it definitely sees a significant role for the technology across its entire radio estate. It seems the UK government has actually been of some help in this matter too, with the creation of a taskforce charged with improving vendor diversity considered a step in the right direction.
Vodafone seems to be trying to set the agenda when it comes to emerging technology trends. For years it promoted NB-IoT, but it’s been silent on that LPWAN (for IoT) lately. OpenRAN suffers from the classic paradox of new technologies in that companies are reluctant to invest much in being first movers. Vodafone is putting its money where its mouth is regarding OpenRAN and it will be watched closely by other operators looking for reassurance before deploying this untested technology.
Vodafone is under pressure to comply with a government deadline for the removal of all Huawei’s 5G products by the end of 2027. This would be fairly straightforward with mainstream technologies from Ericsson and Nokia. Using open RAN as a substitute, even across only 35% of these sites in rural areas, may be tough.
The payoff for Open RAN is a much larger choice of telecom equipment and software vendors. That might even include UK firms, which have not featured in the network equipment sector since the days of Marconi, eventually bought by Ericsson in 2006. Lime Microsystems, based in the UK town of Guildford, is one player that might benefit. It is already supplying 4G equipment to a Vodafone site in Wales that was supposed to be used during this year’s Royal Welsh Show, an agricultural event canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Japan’s Rakuten Mobile and U.S. based Dish Network have already made significant open RAN commitments. Yet both of those companies are building their networks from scratch as greenfield wireless carriers. With today’s update, Vodafone is taking a bigger step into the unknown than any other brownfield telco in a developed market has taken, including Telefonica.
Telefónica has launched commercial 5G services throughout Spain, pledging to reach 75 percent of the Spanish population by the end of the year. In a statement, the company’s executive chairman Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete described the deployment as the most ambitious in the European Union. “The launch of 5G is a leap forward towards the hyperconnectivity that will change the future of Spain,” he said, noting that “it’s 5G for everyone, without any exceptions, in all the autonomous communities.” [That assumes low enough 5G tariffs, such that poorer working class Spaniards can afford the service]. Telefonica is accelerating “the digitalisation of small and medium companies, public administrations and citizens, ”Alvarez-Pallete added.
“Our network has always been a differential asset. People’s lives pass through it and it has demonstrated unparalleled strength when it’s been most needed”, Álvarez-Pallete continued. He pointed out that Spain already leads Europe’s digital infrastructures with the largest fiber optic network.
Editor’s Note: Telefonica’s 5G announcement follows Vodafone – Spain‘s commercial 5G network deployment in 21 cities in Spain. Initial 5G speeds of up to 1 Gbps for Vodafone subscribers in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Malaga, Zaragoza, Bilbao, Vitoria, San Sebastian, La Coruna, Vigo, Gijon, Pamplona, Logrono and Santander. Speeds will rise to 2 Gbps by the end of the year, some 10 times the current 4G maximum, with latency reduced to less than 5 milliseconds in ideal conditions.
Orange and Masmovil set to launch their 5G networks in Spain this month. All four of Spain’s MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) are expected to bid for frequencies in the 700 MHz band when the government holds its delayed spectrum auction in the first quarter of 2021.
Telefonica said 5G technology will give residential customers access to far faster speeds and lower latency, allowing sports fans to enjoy live 360-degree broadcasts and mobile gamers to access a “fibre-like” experience. Businesses will have access to services such as Multi-Access Edge Computing, 5G private networks, mass IoT and critical communications, as well as network virtualisation to facilitate more effective use of the network’s resources.
The Spain based network operator (also active in Latin America) clarified that it will initially launch NSA (non-standalone) 5G combined with DSS (Dynamic Spectrum Sharing) ahead of the “immediate deployment” of 5G SA (standalone) when the technology becomes fully available after standardisation. The company said it will make use of its current sites and infrastructure for the initial rollout, to be complemented by new base stations and small cells according to capacity and coverage needs.
It’s also having to rely on the 3.5 GHz band, together with mid-band (1800-2100 MHz) frequencies, for the initial coverage thanks to equipment that can operate with 4G and 5G at the same time. Telefonica also announced that it intends to shut down its 3G network in 2025, when 100 percent of its copper network will have been replaced by fiber optics.
“With 5G everything happens in a millisecond. A millisecond is what makes remote surgery, autonomous cars, the smart management of energy resources and cities and highly advanced entertainment possible. A millisecond is much more than a new response time. It’s Telefónica’s response to the new times. It’s Telefónica’s commitment to the country’s future”, concluded Álvarez-Pallete.
For residential customers, in addition to the benefits brought by 5G in terms of greater speed and lower latency, which will allow them, for example, to download a film in seconds, 5G will provide the possibility, among other features, of enjoying live sports broadcasts during which users will obtain a 360º experience and be able to view any angle of the match as if they were on the pitch itself. Gaming enthusiasts will obtain a mobility experience similar to that provided by fibre in the home, in other words, without any interruptions or latency. 5G will thus enable them to play on their mobile phones as if they were on their home computer screens or their video consoles.
5G business customers will have access to services like Multi-Access Edge Computing, which offers ultra-low latency services and greater computing capacity “on the network edge”, in addition to services such as 5G private networks, mass IoT and critical communications, as well as network virtualisation to facilitate more effective use of the network’s resources in keeping with the customers’ needs.
Telefónica operates with the latest radio (base station) generations that allow dual 4G and 5G usage, with the aim of bringing 5G to the largest number of people from the outset. This first phase will witness the launch of the 5G network, thanks to a technology that combines the deployment of NSA (non-standalone) 5G and DSS (Dynamic Spectrum Sharing) and the subsequent immediate deployment of the SA (standalone) 5G network when the technology becomes fully available after standardisation. This initial deployment will also make use of the current sites and infrastructure and, in the mid and long terms, it will be complemented by new base stations and small cells as the capacity and coverage require.
The 3.5 GHz band frequency (the only 5G band frequency already licensed to operators) and the mid-band (1800-2100 MHz) frequencies are being used for this purpose. This is the current location of 4G, capitalising on the possibility of using NR (New Radio) equipment that can operate with both technologies (4G and 5G) at the same time.
The new deployments will take place in tandem with a gradual shut-down of the old second and third-generation networks. 100% of the copper network will have been replaced by fibre by 2025, when the 3G network will also be shut down. This will permit more effective management of investments, as it won’t be necessary to increase them to address the new deployments.
The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) OpenRAN project and the O-RAN Alliance today announced a liaison agreement to ensure their alignment in developing interoperable, disaggregated and open Radio Access Network (RAN) solutions.
Since their inception, the overlapping efforts of the two consortiums led to a lot of questions about duplication of work, different specs and interface for the same functions as well as different IP licensing policies. The two groups are calling this liaison arrangement as a “new level of collaboration” for open RAN, rather than a merger. The press release stated:
With this liaison agreement O-RAN and TIP are now reaching a new level of collaboration for open RAN. The liaison allows for sharing information, referencing specifications and conducting joint testing and integration efforts.
The O-RAN Alliance was formed in February 2018 when the x-RAN Forum merged with the C-RAN Alliance. The group is focused on the development of open, intelligent, virtualized and interoperable RAN specifications. The Alliance has already created 31 specifications, with 37 demonstrations of the technology at past MWC events, global plugfests, and more than 1 000 000 lines of code released in partnership with the Linux Foundation. Operators have begun to announce network implementations.
O-RAN Alliance’s mission and focus complements TIP’s mission of deploying end-to-end disaggregated telecom infrastructure in varying environments.
TIP said it’s seen a rapid increase in demand for advanced OpenRAN trials and deployments.
- Following on the heels of its TIP Summit announcement in November 2019, Vodafone launched trials in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is progressing with trials in the UK and Ireland.
- In Indonesia, Indosat Ooredoo and Smartfren will conduct the first OpenRAN field trials in the APAC region. Smartfren has also conducted and completed the first OpenRAN lab trial in the region.
- In Malaysia, Edotco, the tower arm of Axiata group, is collaborating with Celcom Axiata in conducting lab trials with the path to field trials. Following their announcement of TIP OpenRAN deployment in the UAE, Etisalat is starting trials of OpenRAN systems in other regions. In North America, Sprint completed its RFI evaluation and will begin trials of OpenRAN 5G NR technologies in its TIP Community Lab.
Evenstar Program to feed into OpenRAN:
Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, MTI, AceAxis, Facebook Connectivity and additional partners have unveiled the Evenstar RRU (Remote Radio Units). The Evenstar program will focus on building general-purpose RAN reference designs for 4G/5G networks in the Open RAN ecosystem that are aligned with 3GPP and O-RAN specifications.
The Evenstar program will contribute to the OpenRAN ecosystem by focusing on building general-purpose RAN reference designs for 4G and 5G networks that are aligned with 3GPP and O-RAN specifications and will help accelerate the adoption of TIP OpenRAN Project Group Solutions.
By decoupling the RRU hardware, Central Unit (CU) and Distributed Unit (DU) software, mobile network operators will have the ability to select best-of-breed components and the flexibility to deploy solutions from an increasing number of technology partners, TIP said. The intention of the Evenstar program is to contribute the proposed solution into TIP’s OpenRAN Project Group to help accelerate adoption.
“This new collaboration framework between O-RAN and TIP, two major initiatives in the area of open networking, will support our mission to re-shape the RAN industry towards open and intelligent mobile network infrastructure,” said Alex Jinsung Choi, COO of the O-RAN Alliance and SVP Strategy & Technology Innovation, Deutsche Telekom.
“Alignment on O-RAN interoperability efforts will help the industry to speed up the delivery of commercial open RAN solutions. The establishment of the first joint O-RAN Open Test and Integration Center (OTIC) with the TIP Community Lab in Berlin is a concrete step to facilitate this multi-community approach.”
“TIP’s OpenRAN solutions are an important element of our work to accelerate innovation across all elements of the network including Access, Transport, Core & Services. Across the TIP community, we are seeing increasing demand and have achieved meaningful progress with OpenRAN deployments around the world,” said Attilio Zani, Executive Director, Telecom Infra Project.
“With this collaboration framework in place, TIP and O-RAN will work together to develop interoperable 5G RAN solutions. One of our first outputs will be the release of the OpenRAN 5GNR NR Base Station Platform requirements document with normative references to the O-RAN specifications.”
“Our hope, longer term, is that this forms the ability to accelerate the solutions that are in the marketplace and drives greater adoption of Open RAN technologies across the world,” Zani added.
About O-RAN Alliance:
O-RAN Alliance is a world-wide community of more than 160 mobile operators, vendors, and research & academic institutions operating in the Radio Access Network (RAN) industry. As the RAN is an essential part of any mobile network, O-RAN Alliance’s mission is to re-shape the industry towards more intelligent, open, virtualized and fully interoperable mobile networks. The new O-RAN standards will enable a more competitive and vibrant RAN supplier ecosystem with faster innovation to improve user experience. O-RAN-compliant mobile networks will at the same time improve the efficiency of RAN deployments as well as operations by the mobile operators. To achieve this, O-RAN Alliance publishes new RAN specifications, releases open software for the RAN, and supports its members in integration and testing of their implementations.
For a short video describing O-RAN’s progress, see www.o-ran.org/videos
For more information please visit www.o-ran.org
About Telecom Infra Project:
TIP is a collaborative telecom community that is evolving the infrastructure that underpins global connectivity. TIP’s mission is to accelerate the pace of innovation in next generation telecom networks, through the design, build, test and deployment of standards-based, open and disaggregated end-to-end solutions. Over the past four years, TIP has driven substantial innovation across all elements of the network including Access, Transport, Core & Services, while spanning urban through to rural market use cases. To date, it has 13 Community Labs which test, validate and integrate solutions, embarked on field trials in Africa, Latin America, Middle East and Europe. The recently launched TIP Exchange hosts 45 products from 28 member companies.
Vodafone Moves to O-RAN:
One of those early-adopter operators of the O-RAN Alliance specs is Vodafone. In November 2019, Vodafone’s head of network strategy and architecture Santiago Tenorio announced at the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) Summit in Amsterdam that Vodafone would issue a request for quotes (RFQ) for open RAN technology for its entire European footprint.
“That’s significantly more than 100,000 sites, and all the technologies are to tender — 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G,” said Tenorio. “We’ve invited the incumbent suppliers in Europe of course, but we’ve also invited the open RAN suppliers.” He didn’t sound too optimistic about the incumbent suppliers. Apparently, they hadn’t even responded to a Vodafone request for information about open 5G new radio equipment.
Mostafa Essa, an AI and data analytics distinguished engineer with Vodafone, told FierceWireless: “If you use a specific vendor for the RAN and ask him to carry some new features for something you are needing that is impacting your customers, they have to go back to their R&D and build up features,” said Essa. “Then we’ll test and give feedback. Right now, by using the open RAN concept, you can build up whatever you want whenever you want. It’s not connected to vendors’ roadmaps,” he added.
Vodafone has been conducting field trials in some of its markets in Europe, including Spain, Italy and in a rural area north of London. Vodafone used Parallel Wireless for its first open RAN tests, which it conducted in Turkey and Africa.
Essa continued: “We have a lot of instability, which is to be expected in trials. Right now, we are in the building phase. When you roll out this technology, sometimes you can get a lot of dropped calls and so on. But it’s the same as working with the vendors…..who are building systems with their own closed-source software.”
1. Vodafone Italy, which competes with Telecom Italia (TIM), has acquired spectrum to enable the deployment of 5G technology for €2.4 billion during the 5G spectrum auction that fetched $7.6 billion for the Government.
The Italian Government will collect 1,250 million euros from all mobile operators during the current year, 50 million in 2019, 300 million in 2020, 150 million in 2021, and the remaining in 2022 from the 5G auction.
Though telecom operators will be releasing the spectrum auction money in the next five years, it will pose challenges to the telecom industry in Italy. Bloomberg reports that 5G spectrum auction in Italy was a record as compared with the auction in South Korea.
“Spectrum auctions should be designed to balance fiscal requirements with the need for investment to enable economic development. It is critical that European governments avoid artificial auction constructs which fail to strike a healthy balance for the industry,” Nick Read said in a statement.
Vodafone Italy, the second largest telecom operator, posted €1.231 billion revenue registering 6.5 percent drop in the first quarter ended 30 June 2018 against 0.7 percent increase in Q4 of previous fiscal.
Vodafone Italy and other operators are facing competition following the launch of a new entrant in late May. Vodafone Italy launched a new secondary brand to specifically address the needs of customers in the value segment of the market.
Vodafone Italy said the 5G spectrum will deliver network operating cost efficiency to meet the expected future growth in data traffic.
Vodafone Italy is buying 3700 MHz – 80 MHz for €1,685 million, 700 MHz – 2 x 10 MHz FDD for €683 million and 26 GHz – 200 MHz for €33 million.
Vodafone Italy will be using the 3700 MHz spectrum to enhance coverage, improve capacity, and for rapid development of 5G services. Vodafone Italy did not reveal the timing of its planned 5G launch in Italy.
Vodafone Italy will also utilize the 700 MHz spectrum, when it is available from 2022, to deploy 5G services, providing nationwide coverage at very high speed and very low latency for including IoT, virtual and augmented reality, connected vehicles and robotics. This indicates that Vodafone Italy will be playing in both the business and consumer markets of 5G to improve ARPU.
Vodafone Italy said it can also use the 26 GHz spectrum to deliver high capacity services in densely populated locations such as city centres, sports stadiums or industrial plants.
Vodafone said it is leading 5G trials promoted by the Ministry for Economic Development in Milan and its metropolitan area. Vodafone 5G network has already achieved coverage of 80 percent of Milan and targeting 80 percent 5G coverage in its metropolitan area by December 2018.
2. Telecom Italia (TIM) has obtained 5G frequencies for an 80MHz block of 3700 MHz for 1,694 million euros and a 200MHz block of 26 GHz for 33 million euros.
In addition to the two blocks of 700 MHz, TIM’s total investment in the 5G spectrum auction will be 2,407 million euros.
“The switch on of the antenna in Bari certifies TIM’s technological primacy in 5G space in Italy,” Amos Genish said.
Investment in 5G network is an important part of the TIM strategy for sprucing up revenue in Italy. TIM’s telecom business in Italy has posted 7.454 billion euros in revenue in the first half of 2018 against 7.494 billion euros in the same period 2017.
TIM 5G will be focusing on both consumer and business customers. Consumer business of TIM’s telecom business in Italy has reported 3.753 billion euros in revenue, while 2.333 billion euros came from business customers and 860 million euros from wholesale business in Italy.
TIM will use 3700 MHz and 26 GHz to leverage the testing already underway in Turin, Bari and Matera and in the Republic of San Marino.
TIM has started to implement services for the Smart City targeting public security, transport, environmental monitoring, healthcare, tourism and culture, in San Marino.
The 3700 MHz band, already used for the tests launched at the start of the year, is available immediately.
TIM will use 26 GHz millimetre wave band, which will be available from 2019, to conduct road test for the first 5G services. TIM will use the 700 MHz frequencies, available from 2022, to strengthen UBB coverage, including in indoor areas, with the implementation of 5G technology.
TIM said its 4G mobile broadband coverage reached over 98 percent of the population in Italy and fixed broadband reached 80 percent of homes via FTTC and FTTH technology.
Two new partnerships promise to increase global IoT connectivity.
1. Chunghwa Telecom and Tata Communications:
India’s global network operator Tata Communications is partnering with Taiwan’s Chunghwa Telecom to bring global connectivity to consumer electronics and Industrial Internet of Things devices. In a joint press release, the companies said the partnership will enable Chunghwa Telecom to tap into additional revenues by connecting IoT devices through Tata Communications’ MOVE-IoT Connect platform which enables IoT devices to be deployed quickly -both locally and internationally- by leveraging Tata Communications’ ecosystem of mobile network operators worldwide.
The Taiwanese electronics industry output is expected to be worth $228 billion (NT$6.65 trillion) in 2018, and the wearables market grew at double digits in both volume and value terms in 2017. Chunghwa Telecom looks to capitalize on this growth through the existing IoT roaming services the operator provides.
“Our aim is to serve three million IoT devices in the next three years, and Tata Communications will be one of our key partners to fulfill this ambition,” Ming-Shih Chen, president of mobile business group at Chunghwa Telecom.
“Tata Communications MOVE will give our customers’ IoT services borderless network coverage across 200 countries, ensuring a consistently high-quality and reliable user experience.”
One of Chunghwa Telecom’s first Tata Communications’ MOVE – IoT Connect customers is TaiDoc Technology, which manufactures premium medical devices to improve people’s health and quality of life. TaiDoc will use Tata Communications MOVE – IoT Connect to extend the reach of its devices to countries such as China, Thailand and the U.S.
“Our aim is to serve three million IoT devices in the next three years, and Tata Communications will be one of our key partners to fulfil this ambition,” said Ming-Shih Chen, President of Mobile Business Group, Chunghwa Telecom. “Tata Communications MOVE™ will give our customers’ IoT services borderless network coverage across 200 countries, ensuring a consistently high-quality and reliable user experience. At the same time, we’re able to extend our business easily by being part of the Tata Communications’ MOVE™ ecosystem of mobile network operators. It’s a win-win for us.”
“IoT devices require borderless, secure and scalable connectivity to enable the capture, movement and management of information worldwide. Cellular connectivity is an effective foundation for IoT services, but the problem is that today’s mobile networks are inherently local – there is no such concept as a global mobile network,” said Anthony Bartolo, chief product officer at Tata Communications.
“We want to change that. We’re excited to work with Chunghwa Telecom and other leading mobile network operators around the world to build a truly global ecosystem of connectivity, and spur IoT adoption by businesses worldwide.”
2. China Unicom and Telefonica:
China Unicom has signed an agreement with Spain’s Telefonica designed to simplify and accelerate IoT deployments for their respective enterprise customers globally. The partnership will give the two operators access to each others’ network and allow them to provide IoT products and services across several key markets through a single global SIM card.
The agreement will also consolidate their respective positions in IoT in Europe, Latin America and China, three of the most important IoT markets in the world, the companies said in a joint statement. Enterprise customers of Telefonica and China Unicom will be able to easily and seamlessly deploy IoT products and services in these three regions with a single global IoT SIM card. By using a unified IoT connectivity management platform, they will be able to control connections globally and to localize IoT SIMs once they reach a certain geography (subscription swap), the pair said.
“We are leveraging IoT technologies to accompany our customers on their digital transformation journey, where IoT has a very important role to play. Telefónica IoT is named a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Managed M2M Services worldwide, maintaining that position we have held since inception four years ago…..Simplifying massive IoT deployments is key and therefore we are strengthening our ecosystem of partners. Our partnership with China Unicom will strengthen Telefónica’s capability to meet our global customer needs,” Telefonica chief IoT officer Vicente Muñoz said.
Enterprise customers will be able to enjoy these new IoT capabilities later this year, Muñoz added.
In related news, China Mobile has signed a deal with UK’s Vodafone, under which the pair have agreed to resell each other’s IoT services for the first time. The agreement, announced at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, will see each company share new IoT project opportunities with their partners.
Vodafone customers will be given access to China Mobile IoT SIMs for deployments in China, while China Mobile customers wanting to offer IoT-enabled products outside of China will do so via Vodafone’s Global IoT SIM and management platform.
Vodafone will manage all elements of the operational model for its customers including on-boarding, SIM and logistics as well as billing and support. The company will act as a single point of contact for its enterprise IoT customers wanting to move into China.
China Mobile will discuss the possibility for IoT sales opportunities with Vodafone for companies wanting to expand outside of China.
Dorothy Lin, China Mobile International’s head of mobile business partnership, said the collaboration with Vodafone will allow the Chinese mobile giant to offer customers the greatest possible reach of IoT services.
“Having reached over 200 million IoT connections last year, China Mobile aims to increase the connections by 60% in 2018,” Lin noted.