Tuesday, 24 January 2023

AT&T and AST SpaceMobile plan to extend coverage for consumers, businesses & first responders

AT&T has been working with the satellite pioneer AST SpaceMobile for a white as reported by Light Reading back in 2020. In a new video, AT&T gives AST SpaceMobile a big, public shoutout. The video is embedded below.

The following is from CNET article:

T-Mobile has partnered with SpaceX to boost its coverage through SpaceX's Starlink satellite network. Verizon has been talking about working with Amazon's Project Kuiper program. Now AT&T has announced a new satellite partner of its own. 

On Tuesday the carrier announced a new partnership with AST SpaceMobile, a satellite company, to use its low Earth orbit satellites to help bolster AT&T's terrestrial coverage. In a video about the partnership, Chris Sambar, AT&T's president of network, says that the wireless carrier has received "conditional approval" to use some of its wireless spectrum to connect cell phones to the satellites. 

In the video, Sambar quickly goes through a few broad applications ranging from helping its FirstNet first-responder network to business applications like "remote agriculture" and "remote machinery." 

AT&T already has a satellite partnership with satellite company OneWeb to offer connections to the wireless carrier's business users but hadn't announced any consumer-focused satellite service. 

Sambar does, however, hint at a possible consumer application as he describes how his mother-in-law's drive from rural Virginia to Richmond to "see her kids and grandkids" includes a road that currently struggles for coverage from "any wireless carrier." That drive, he says, could potentially be covered by a "space-based mobile solution." 

AT&T tells CNET that it plans to use the service to offer "integrated, complementary and real connectivity from satellite-based solutions for voice, data and video services." 

As for device support, AT&T says the service is "intended to integrate with all of our customers' devices using LTE and 5G broadband on our existing mobile network." The carrier, however, says it is "too early" to say if it will charge extra for the service or include it with customers' existing plans. 

As for when AT&T and AST SpaceMobile's service might start to appear, AST SpaceMobile has previously talked about testing its "direct-to-cell satellite capabilities" during the first quarter of next year before launching its first five commercial satellites in "late 2023." AT&T plans to join this testing in the first quarter. 

Scott Wisniewski, chief strategy officer at AST SpaceMobile, tells CNET in a statement that after the launch of those satellites next year it will be able to "offer intermittent broadband services in 2024." 

Light Reading article points out:

The video is noteworthy because AT&T is one of the biggest wireless network operators in the world, and Sambar controls a large part of the operator's multibillion-dollar network spending budget. The fact that he made a five-minute support video for SpaceMobile will likely go a long way toward convincing regulators and investors to provide both the necessary approvals for SpaceMobile's satellite launch plans as well as the money it will take to get the company's satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO).

It would be interesting to see how all these satellite connectivity complementing the terrestrial networks and connectivity work out. There is a huge potential but the path towards that is a really tough one.

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Friday, 6 January 2023

Dialog Launches First Immersive Metaverse, Futureverse, in Sri Lanka

We may not yet have a firm definition of Metaverse but that hasn't stopped operators launching their own Metaverse. Sri Lanka's Dialog is the latest operator to announce their 'Futureverse'. The press release noted:

Continuing to spearhead technology firsts in the country and the region, Dialog Axiata PLC, launched ‘Futureverse’ – Sri Lanka’s first fully immersive, interactive and experiential Metaverse where people can shop for Dialog products and services, socialize, attend events, and play games in one persistent virtual world.

Futureverse is an immersive and interactive virtual world where users can create their own custom avatars. This virtual world will enable visitors access to all Dialog products and services available at any Dialog Experience Centre, socialize with friends, watch movies, take part in workshops, visit exhibitions, and more. Powered by immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR), the Futureverse, from Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, extends a seemingly borderless digital realm that delivers endless experiences and possibilities, where visitors can experience a unique virtual world filled with abstract landscapes and objects. Futureverse is a fun way to spend free time while interacting with friends virtually through voice or chat.

If you do not know the difference between AR, VR, MR and XR, we suggest you check out our short video here. The following is a video of Futureverse from Dialog:

With MWC just around the corner, we will see a lot more of Metaverse action in the coming weeks and months.

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Tuesday, 27 December 2022

Tuesday, 20 December 2022

The Maldives - Making Slow Progress with 5G

Due to its economy being so heavily dependent on tourism, the Maldives has suffered heavy economic as well as health casualties during the pandemic. The country had a relatively short period of lockdown and was willing to welcome visitors back as early as July 2020. But the effective shutdown of international air travel for most of the year resulted in the bottom falling out of the Maldives’ tourism industry, taking GDP down 32% in the process. The economy fared better in 2021, with a return to growth, yet it may still be a few years before the country’s key industries can return to the same level of prosperity that they previously enjoyed.

The Maldives’ telecoms market is experiencing a similar level of pain because of the pandemic, due to being overweight in the mobile segment. That is because, historically, the country’s high number of tourists and expatriate workers has inflated the penetration rate for mobile services, making it one of the highest in the world. That rate crashed in 2020 as demand for SIM cards (primarily prepaid) dried up. However, the number of contract subscribers increased as locals took advantage of competitive pricing offers from operators.

Everything now rests on a fast return to normality, with tourists helping to boost the nation’s coffers as well as buying up those prepaid SIM cards. With commercial 5G services already launched and fibre networks rapidly expanding around the country, the Maldives is primed to deliver world-class telecommunications services to its domestic and international customers.

The Maldives has two network operators: Dhiraagu and Ooredoo

2G/GSM is on 900 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz up to (DC-)HSPA+ speed, 4G/LTE had started in 2013 on both providers on 1800 MHz (3) and added by 2100 (1) and 2600 (7) MHz. 5G started on Dhiraagu in Male in 2019 and is available without surcharge. Both networks have shops next door to each other at Male international airport.

The recent Open Signal report on mobile network experience in the Maldives, saw a tightly-fought competition between the two national operators across all the categories. Ooredoo won three awards outright, both Consistency awards and 4G Coverage Experience. In the remaining categories, including speed metrics, experiential awards and Availability, there were six statistical ties between Dhiraagu and Ooredoo, which resulted in six joint wins for both of them.

Ooredoo was taken over and rebranded 2012 from Wataniya. It's the second mobile provider in the Maldives. LTE has started 2014 on 2600 MHz (band 7) in Male, now available to prepaid customers to be added by 2100 MHz (band 1).

In August 2022 Ooredoo Maldives announced that its 5G network was now available across Greater Male. Mobile and ‘AirFibre’ home broadband customers are able to access 5G services in areas including Male, Villimale, Hulhumale and Hulhule. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Ooredoo launched commercial 5G services in select areas of Male in December 2020, targeting key business hubs, hospitals and public spaces. Ooredoo claims that average speeds of 400Mbps-600Mbps can be achieved, with peak speeds reaching above 1Gbps. At the same time, the firm introduced its AirFibre 5G fixed wireless service for home broadband customers.

Dhiraagu is the leading and the largest provider of telecommunications and digital services in the Maldives. It's mostly owned by the Batelco Group from Bahrain and the Government of the Maldives. They have linked the Maldives from north to south through a 1,253 km long fibre optic submarine cable network which supports the nation's largest 3G and 4G/LTE and fixed broadband networks. 4G/LTE started in Male on 1800 MHz (band 3) frequency band and has been expanded in 2015 to a few more islands and the 2600 MHz (band 7).

Dhiraagu was the first operator to launch the first 5G commercial service in Maldives and South Asia.

More recently they have announced the launch of their fibre broadband service in Kandoodhoo, an inhabited island of Thaa Atoll. The latest expansion brings the operator's fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) coverage to a total of 100 islands of the Maldives, representing coverage of 85% of households.

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Wednesday, 7 December 2022

Indonesia Joins the Metaverse World with metaNesia

Back in August, the Indonesian government launched its own metaverse platform called MetaNesia as an effort to adapt to the fast-changing digital ecosystem. XinhuaNet reported

The virtual world, launched Sunday, is developed by state-owned telecommunications company PT Telkom Indonesia, and will be the place for Indonesia's small and medium enterprises to promote their goods on an equal footing with larger foreign businesses.

Organizations will also be able to offer crucial social services like online health consultations to more people on metaNesia, according to the State-owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir.

"Don't let our country be left behind other countries. We have to balance the changes in this ecosystem, one of the answers for this is MetaNesia," Thohir said in a written statement.

He also said that MetaNesia services include a Metaverse Mall to feature shops, service centers and entertainment, as well as a Metaverse Concert for events. Furthermore, it will also be made able to host a non-fungible tokens marketplace, virtual meetings, and sport events.

Digitimes Reported

PT Telkom Indonesia is aiming to create a platform that features many services such as Metaverse Concert for events and a Metaverse Mall with stores, services, and entertainment. Later this year, the state-owned enterprise hopes to hold a non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace, online meetings, and even yoga and e-sports events in the second-life world.

Gemini's latest "Global State of Crypto Report," in which 20 countries were surveyed, concludes that 41% of Indonesians aged between 18 to 75 years old with an income of more than $14,000 per year own crypto assets. In addition, 61% of Indonesian respondents agree with the notion that crypto is the future of money, Gemini said.

Indonesia's MetaNesia truly captured the spirit of Indonesian and the metaverse. Not only is it not a replacement for reality, but it also aims to improve equality, inclusivity, and accessibility.

However, PT Telkom Indonesia needs to plan carefully to really achieve this ideal world.

At Telecom Infra Project's Fyuz 22 conference, Muhamad Fajrin Rasyid, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer of Telkom Indonesia gave a talk on metaNesia. His talk is embedded below:

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Friday, 2 December 2022

Zimbabweans Still Struggle With Mobile Internet on 3G

Zimbabwe’s mobile operators continue to be affected by the country’s poor economy. This has been exacerbated by the significant economic difficulties related to the pandemic. Revenue has also been under pressure from a number of recent regulatory measures and additional taxes imposed by the cash-strapped government. Inflation has become so high that year-on-year revenue comparisons since 2019 have been difficult to assess meaningfully.

The three MNOs Econet Wireless, NetOne and Telecel Zimbabwe continue to invest in network upgrades, partly supported by government efforts and cash released from the Universal Service Fund. As a result of these investments, LTE networks have expanded steadily, though services remain concentrated in urban areas.

International bandwidth has improved since fibre links to several submarine cables were established via neighbouring countries. The expansion of 3G and LTE-based mobile broadband services has meant that most of the population has access to the internet. The government has started a national broadband scheme aimed at delivering a 1Mb/s service nationally by 2030. Investment in fixed broadband infrastructure has also resulted in a slow but steady growth in the number of DSL connections, and also fibre subscriptions. During 2021, most growth in the fixed broadband segment has been with fibre connections.

Econet is the market leader in Zimbabwe with over 12.4 million connected customers they have invested millions of US dollars in deploying the widest and most robust 2G, 3G,4G and now 5G networks in the country.

Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has teamed up with Ericsson to launch 5G services in Harare. The Swedish vendor is providing RAN and 5G evolved packet core equipment, while also providing a Network Functions Virtualisation Infrastructure (NFVI) platform to ensure a smooth upgrade from 3G and 4G technologies. Econet plans to deploy 22 5G base stations during 2022.

NetOne is the 2nd provider in Zimbabwe by user numbers, but they started even before Econet. The state-owned company is co-managed with TelOne, the national landline operator.

In 2021 they announced they were looking to deploy more than 260 new base stations under the third phase of its mobile broadband expansion project, with a focus on rural areas. A report from The Herald quotes Deputy ICT Minister Dingumuzi Phuti as saying that NetOne had already upgraded 75 base stations from 2G to 3G and a further 60 to 4G. The government has also revealed that the operator is expecting to install the country’s first 5G equipment as part of its network expansion. The project is expected to increase the operator’s population coverage from about 75% to 85%, though a completion date has not been given.  NetOne was also working with Huawei on the USD71 million rollout, which is described as a ‘strategic cooperation between China and Zimbabwe’. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, NetOne is the second largest of Zimbabwe’s three mobile network operators (MNOs), with around 3.75 million subscribers and a 29% share of the market at the end of June 2021.

Telecel is the smallest operator in Zimbabwe. It is expected to be placed under corporate rescue, a form of bankruptcy protection, due to ‘serious financial distress’. According to a report from The Herald, David Mhambare, the secretary general of the Communication and Allied Service Workers Union of Zimbabwe, is cited in a high court application as saying: ‘The … conditions indicate the existence of a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt on the company’s ability to continue operating as a going concern. If the solvency position of Telecel does not receive prime attention, it will inevitably go under liquidation.’ At 31 December 2021 Telecel’s liabilities outweighed its assets by a factor of sixteen to one.

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that Telecel, by far the smallest of Zimbabwe’s three mobile service providers, has been struggling financially and facing a declining subscription base for some time.

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Thursday, 24 November 2022

UScellular 5G Progress and 6G Plans

At the Annual Brooklyn 6G Summit (B6GS) last month, Robert Jakubek, Vice President of Engineering and Network Operations for U.S. Cellular, presented deployment strategies for the next generation of wireless communications.

Sue Marek details the talk in Fierce Wireless as follows:

Speaking at the 2022 Brooklyn 6G Summit, which is jointly hosted by Nokia and NYU Wireless, Robert Jakubek, VP of engineering at US Cellular called for the industry to figure out how to get more functionality out of mmWave. “CPEs [customer premises equipment] need to get more sophisticated,” Jakubek said. “Help us solve some of the challenges of mmWave fixed wireless and make it more effective.”

The request is notable because Nokia, which is a sponsor of the event, is a key supplier to UScellular and provides 5G radio gear for the company’s low-band and mmWave networks. Nokia also is working with UScellular on its deployment of standalone 5G (SA).  Jakubek said that UScellular is moving “full speed ahead” with its SA core. Nokia has said previously that it should be deployed by year-end.

Jakubek added that UScellular has had success with a couple of extended range trials where its FWA signal used mmWave spectrum. In 2020 the operator and its partners Ericsson and Qualcomm completed an extended range 5G mmWave data call over a distance of more than 5 kilometers (around 3.1 miles) at speeds over 100 Mbps. And in 2021 the company set a record of 10 km (about 6.2 miles) in tests with Nokia and Qualcomm.

UScellular has deployed a Home Internet+ product that uses 5G and mmWave spectrum to deliver FWA to customers in more than 10 cities. It launched that product last April. In addition,  the operator offers a FWA product over the company’s LTE network to its entire footprint. At the end of 2Q, UScellular said it had 57,000 FWA customers, but it doesn’t break out those on mmWave vs. those on the LTE network.

Besides FWA, Jakubek said that the company is looking ahead to deployment 5G voice over new radio (VoNR) but that isn’t likely to happen until 2024 or later.

And of course as it is a 6G summit, you couldn't do a presentation without talking about what is needed from 6G. The talk is embedded below, courtesy of IEEE TV.

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