Friday 31 May 2019

SK Telecom's 5G Strategy and Services

No doubt SK Telecom is one the operators leading the way on 5G. Here we look at some of their exciting upcoming initiatives that will change the everyday lives of their customers.

Firstly regarding autonomous driving: SK Telecom and Seoul Metropolitan Government have entered into an agreement to jointly develop and verify HD Map technologies for autonomous driving. They will cooperate on the development of services for HD Map covering a total of 121 kilometers of public roads. These roads have been selected by Seoul’s Cooperative-Intelligent Transport System (C-ITS) project, by installing 5G Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) to 1,600 buses and 100 taxis. This project is designed to develop a transportation system infrastructure, including a 5G network and V2X system, on major roads of Seoul. In January this year, SK Telecom won a contract to deploy 5G infrastructure and services in the area. A total of 1,700 units of 5G ADAS installed in buses and taxis will collect 124 different types of road/traffic information and transmit the data via 5G network to support real-time update of the HD map. 5G ADAS, installed in public transportation vehicles, are designed to support vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication.

SK Telecom and the Seoul Government also intend to create an autonomous driving ecosystem by opening up related infrastructure such as HD maps and data collected by 5G ADAS. The operator has announced a collaboration with three Korean cities — Songdo, Yeongjong, and Cheongna — to use 5G for “HD maps” that will cover 132.9 square kilometers down to the centimeter, including lanes, road slopes, and speed limits. They expect that the maps will be updated in real time with changes including road conditions, all in the service of enabling self-driving vehicles to safely travel the roads.

Regarding the introduction of 5G technology into hospitals; SK Telecom has signed a MOU with Yonsei University Health System to provide digital solutions across 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and the Internet of Things (IoT) for their hospital intended to open in February 2020.

According to SK Telecom:
"The 5G-powered digital hospital will be equipped with SK Telecom's AI speaker NUGU to enable patients with physical difficulties to easily control their beds, lighting, and TV with their voice. They can even use NUGU Call service to get medical assistance in case of emergencies. Moreover, the 5G-powered digital hospital will offer AR-based indoor navigation service through the application of indoor positioning and 3D-mapping technologies to enhance the convenience of patients and visitors."
Patients in isolation wards will also be able to receive visitors via holographic projections, the carrier said, while facial recognition technology will be used for medical workers to improve security.

"Authorised personnel can automatically gain access to buildings, labs, and other rooms through a facial recognition access control system.Unlike other access control systems that require some kind of contact -- fingerprint, pass, etc -- the face recognition system allows contact-free entry to help reduce the risk of infection."
SK Telecom and the Yonsei University Health System will continue to apply innovative 5G-based hospital solutions to the Yongin Severance Hospital and then to all hospitals under the Yonsei University Health System.

Regarding augmented and virtual reality these are key areas of focus for the operator. Using augmented reality technology, the large fire-breathing dragon was streamed flying around the SK Happy Dream Park during the opening day of the Korea Baseball Organization.

The dragon was streamed both to the LED baseball scoreboard installed at the stadium and via sports broadcasting channels for fans watching the game on TV and smartphones.

To achieve large scale augmented reality streaming, SK Telecom used its self-developed augmented and virtual reality technologies including the eSpace and T real Platform solutions.

The demonstration arose from SK Telecom's focus on the development of 5G-based services to support its commercial network, which launched in December last year.

Another major way SK Telecom want to incorporate this new technology into everyday life is through 5G-powered offices.

One such technology applied to the 5G smart office is a “5G walking-through system,” where people can pass through the entrance via face recognition. Employees had been required to carry identification tags to get through security at the entrance.
Workers are also able to convene remote conferences similar to those seen in sci-fi movies. While not as advanced as creating holograms in the real world, attendees could talk to each other’s avatars in cyberspace.

The telecom company said it established the smart systems at its office in Seoul and has been operating it as a test bed. It plans to develop and specify business models in cooperation with cloud service providers as well as hardware and software partners.
SK Telecom said it installed IoT sensors at places such as ceilings and corridors of the office to collect information on temperature, brightness and humidity. Such information is delivered to servers in real time, and air conditioners and other devices are controlled automatically.

The 5G virtual desktop infrastructure (VID) docking system enables to workers to do their work even if they do not have a laptop or PC by connecting their smartphones to the docking pad. "T real telepresence" is a system combining VR and AR technologies, enabling workers at different locations to have a meeting and watch visual materials together though simultaneous log-ins. The 5G cafeteria offers an unmanned vending machine powered by AI technology as well as a barista robot.

In fact the South Korea’s government recently announced that it expects its robot industry to grow to 15 trillion won ($12.6 billion) by 2023, from 5.7 trillion won in 2018. On March 21 it said supporting the industry is a key national goal. Some of the growth will come from the use of robots in elder care, medicine, and logistics, as well as in entertainment and other service industries.

SK Telecom is making an AI speaker that will project holograms of K-pop stars and other celebrities. The technology is being developed for use in concerts and other performances. 

“AI would become like friends that could be accessible anywhere and anytime,” says Cho Ikhwan, a leader of the augmented-reality and virtual-reality development team at SK Telecom. “It’s a totally new experience to feel AI robots come alive.”

In the Brooklyn 5G Summit Recently, Mr. Jong Kwan Park, SK Telecom, gives a snapshot of the Korean 5G customer and the achievements of the company regarding its 5G journey and deployment specifications. The talk is embedded below:

Further reading on SK Telecom:

Sunday 26 May 2019

NOS, Portugal demonstrates 5G for Smart Cities

NOS did a live demonstration of 5G at Portugal Smart Cities Summit. According to NOS LinkedIn company page (using Google translate):

NOS announces today the company's solutions to meet the challenges of digital transformation of cities and marks the event with the first demonstration supported in 5G Second, Manuel Ramalho Eanes, executive director of NOS: "With the NOS tomorrow's super cities are already being built today. All the partnerships we have been doing (...) aim to leave the municipalities already prepared for the potential of the new mobile generation. The 5G will be a key enabler in building 5.0 partnerships, where machines will be at the service of citizens. "

According to Telecom Paper:

Portuguese operator Nos is conducting a live 5G demonstration at the Portugal Smart Cities Summit in partnership with Huawei. The demo is focused on remote driving of vehicles, simulating a safety and emergency situation. 

Nos said the demonstration will show the difference the new generation of mobile communications brings in terms of response time (latency). It will also illustrate the application of technology in the field of safety in the community, with a view to future response capacity and autonomy of emergency prevention and combat services. In order to conduct the 5G demo, Nos requested from Anacom spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band.

According to PortugalResident:

It was a simulation of an emergency situation where vehicles had to be action “from a distance”.

Various reports have explained how NOS regularly tests its developing technology and has “absolute faith” in its Huawei partners.

“International concerns” are not going to do away with 18 months of work and investment within the company, said Ramalho Eanes, stressing that aside from its partnership with Huawei, NOS is “working with Nokia to ensure the availability to the Portuguese market of 5G masts and technology”.

Yesterday’s test event involved a Huawei mast being installed at the corner of FIL’s Pavilion 1.

“In the middle of the pavilion were two driving simulators with virtual reality goggles”, explains Observador.

Operators were able to show how, with 5G, its possible to control emergency vehicles, like fire engines, from a distance.

Granted, the speeds at which these vehicles travel do not exceed 20 km/ h yet, but the advantages, in terms of removing the risks to humans in hostile environments were highlighted.

NOS is not revealing for now how much it has invested in 5G, but Ramalho Eanes stressed the company’s commitment to rolling out the network in partnership with Huawei.

According to Algarve for explorers:

Portugal on the Smart Cities Summit in Lisbon NOS is in the process of being presented in five major themed areas: the environment, energy, waste, mobility and security. Installed in the data centers of the communication group's solutions are already being implemented in test communities, according to NOS. According to these figures, in the areas of energy efficiency in buildings, smart street lighting, remote management of water supply networks, weather-dependent irrigation in parks and gardens, waste management, smart parking, vehicle fleet management, reporting and event organization.

During the three-day event in Lisbon NOS representatives wanted to discuss the issue of cyber security and resource efficiency and other issues, according to the press release. Since Huawei's participation is likely to be one of the hotter iron.

Related items:

Thursday 23 May 2019

Millicom targets Leadership Position in Central America with acquisition of Telefónica Subsidiaries

Millicom announced last week that it has closed the acquisition of Telefonía Celular de Nicaragua, S.A., the number one mobile operator in the country, adding to its existing cable operation of TIGO Nicaragua. This is the first transaction to close since Millicom announced in February an agreement to acquire three subsidiaries of Telefónica in Central America in Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Telefonía Celular de Nicaragua, S.A. adds approximately 4 million mobile customers to TIGO with a 4G network accessible to 51% of the population in Nicaragua. The transaction accelerates the execution of Millicom’s fixed-mobile convergence strategy, it helps consolidate the company’s leadership position in Central America, and it diversifies and balances the geographic footprint of the company in its mission to build digital highways that connect more users and develop communities throughout the region.

For people who are not aware, Central America consists of 7 countries, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Of these, Millicom is present in 5 of them with their brand Tigo.

This transaction in Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua will allow Millicom to accelerate its Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) strategy.

In Panama, after the acquisition:

  • #1 mobile operator in a four-player market with 1.6 million customers
  • 4G network covers 74% of population
  • Revenue and Adjusted EBITDA CAGRs of approximately 4% and 7%, respectively, in 2015-2018, in US dollar terms
  • 2018 revenue of $223 million and Adjusted EBITDA of $90 million, resulting in a margin near 41%
  • Dollarized economy and investment grade country increasing Millicom’s US dollar revenue sources

In Costa Rica, after the acquisition:

  • #2 mobile operator in a three-player market with 2.4 million customers
  • 4G network covers 85% of population
  • Revenue CAGR of approximately 13% in 2015-2018, in US dollar terms, drove much faster EBITDA growth over the period
  • 2018 revenue of $253 million and EBITDA of $60 million, resulting in a margin near 24%

In Nicaragua, after the acquisition:

  • #1 mobile operator in a two-player market with 4.7 million customers
  • 4G network covers 51% of the population
  • Revenue has declined at a 2.5% CAGR in US dollar terms in 2015-2018, due in part to a weaker currency and to slower overall economic activity
  • 2018 revenue of $232 million, nearly 50% of which are denominated in US dollars, and Adjusted EBITDA of $92 million, resulting in a margin near 40%

Finally, with regards to Spectrum the three countries:
Reasonable amount of spectrum is available for existing 3G & 4G services. Our assumption is that these will increase with arrival of 5G in these countries.


Wednesday 22 May 2019

Telus says 5G is just another 'G' (#5GJAG)

Ibrahim Gedeon, CTO of Telus, Canada said that and he's not happy with the industry's focus on speed. "We just spend more money and don't make more money," he said during a keynote presentation at Big 5G Event in Denver (embedded below). "5G is letting us down."

According to this Light Reading report:

Gedeon clearly isn't a fan of some of the more advanced "use cases" that are typically associated with 5G, either. "Can you please raise your hand if you would like to be one of the first people in the world to have a surgeon operate on you using a reliable network?" he joked. He seems equally unconvinced by talk of 5G-powered autonomous cars. Everyone appears to be doing their own thing, he said, perhaps alluding to some of the recent battles involving carmakers and telecom players over the technologies that will ultimately be used.

So what does Gedeon recommend? In a nutshell, he thinks there should be less focus on the radio side and more on how 5G will affect other parts of the telco network, and specifically the "edge" -- a promised land of opportunity for telcos that has been somewhat overlooked.

At least, it has been overlooked in some critical ways, according to Gedeon. While operators such as Verizon, in the US, and Deutsche Telekom, in Germany, are busy talking about their edge plans and trialing new services, the industry has yet to address some critical edge-related issues. Above all, if the edge means deploying the telco cloud and IT resources at customer premises, such as a sports stadium, then where is what Gedeon calls the "demark?" What does the customer actually own?

"We need to think of the demark. We need to think about APIs and gateways … Everyone talks about cloudifying, but everyone is busy doing EMBB [enhanced mobile broadband] and autonomous vehicles," said Gedeon.

It should be noted that Telus acquired reasonable amount of 600 MHz spectrum in Canadian spectrum auctions last month. Unfortunately that is the coverage layer spectrum and won't give good speeds.

The talk from Big 5G event can be viewed here.

Monday 20 May 2019

The Maldives: Moving forward to 5G

The Maldives consists of numerous islands with a population of only 360,000. However their telecom market is bolstered by the steady and large influx of tourists. The vibrant tourist sector helps to account for the unusually high mobile penetration rate, though multiple SIM card use is also widely adopted. In addition a large number of expatriate workers require SIM cards on a semi-temporary basis

There are two licensed operators, Dhivehi Raajjeyge Gulhun (Dhiraagu) and Ooredoo Maldives, they have both invested in HSPA and LTE infrastructure, providing coverage to all populated islands.  These developments have encouraged the take-up of mobile broadband services among subscribers. Both operators also provide fixed-line services.

Priority has been given to telecom infrastructure upgrades, with considerable success. There is a well-developed national network, though investment has been concentrated in the capital Malé as well as in the tourist resort islands. The submarine cable connection to Sri Lanka improved international bandwidth and helped reduce access pricing for end-users. A second submarine cable linked the archipelago to India in 2006. Additional cables linking the main atolls has substantially strengthened domestic connectivity.

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). In 2016 they completed a campaign to provide 3G services to 100% of Maldivians on all inhabited islands, and its focus is now on offering nationwide coverage of its 4G/LTE network, which is currently available to 60% of the population. Dhiraagu is aiming to complete the 4G/LTEexpansion project by the end of 2017

Dhiraagu has installed about 35 WiFi hotspots in Male and more in a dozen other islands.
Dhiraagu has also completed the upgrade of the fixed broadband network in Malé, and  trialed 5G services in November 2018.

During the demonstration, Dhiraagu's Senior Manager of Brand, Marketing and Communication Mohamed Mirushan Hassan, initiated the download of a video, comparing the speed of a 5G network, and 4G network on two different screens.

While the 4G network took 11 minutes to complete the download, the 5G network took a mere 30 seconds. With this, Maldives has become the second South Asian country to demonstrate 5G services, with the first being neighbouring India. Mirushan declared that the 5G demonstration was made using the latest state of the art technology available and that showcasing this service is a step forward in Dhiraagu's role in the field of digital technology.

Speaking at the event held at Dhiraagu's head office, CEO Ismail Rasheed stated that 

"5G will increase speed. Without a delay, signals will be transmitted. Dhiraagu always looks at what the customer wants when introducing these services." 
He hoped to increase customer awareness for these technologies through these demonstrations.

According to Dhiraagu, 5G internet speeds will be 10 to 20 times faster than current 4G speeds. Furthermore, the company assured that the 5G network will be easier to sustain during natural disasters. Dhiraagu has made great advances in the fields of internet, communication and other digital services, with initiatives such as Dhiraagu TV and Dhiraagu-Pay. Apart from capital Male', the company has established high-speed internet to 45 islands.


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).

Their coverage is good but not as good as Dhiraagu's, so make a network check before you buy a SIM card. In 2017 LTE coverage has spread to 40 inhabited and resort islands

Ooredoo and Huawei Marine complete nationwide submarine cable project;

Ooredoo Maldives has rolled out 4G network and upgraded its transmission network to full IP.Ooredoo became the first ever operator to provide 4G+ to all the islands of Maldives. In addition to this, Ooredoo also transformed their network to full IP and enhanced the data experience of their customers.

Ooredoo Maldives has also won 5G spectrum licence in February 2018 and showcased their 5G which utilizes internet of things (IoT).

The new revolutionary experience of 5G in 1.8 Gbps speed was showcased in the ‘Color run’ held on 23rd of November, and the service was inaugurated by the Vice President, Honorable Faisal Naseem.

The ‘Color Run‘ was held at Central Park of Hulhumale with over 5000 participants. As there is the fun of color play every 1 kilometer and since they do not hand out awards for those who finish early, this run became an opportunity to promote the fitness of the people and to have fun to the runner’s heart’s content.

Ooredoo proclaims that their companies top the efforts made to form the 5G ecosystem. Their work includes bringing network upgrades that lead to the human development and bring forth a revolution in the experiences that a customer goes through, and that this will prompt extensive inventions in a near future such as cars that run on 5G without drivers, flying taxis and delivery of goods with the use of a drone. 

Saturday 18 May 2019

Sprint Keynote from #B5GS 2019 - Power of Massive MIMO and Band 41 5G NR

Sprint CTO, John Saw, talked about their 5G plans and how this new ecosystem promises to disrupt a number of market verticals such as agriculture, health care, and manufacturing at the Brooklyn 5G Summit 2019. He specifically focussed on Massive MIMO and shared a use case of its integration of 4G with 5G.

In case you are not aware, Sprint has a big chunk of Band 41 (above picture) available that they have been using for variety of stuff (see 3G4G blog post on HPUE & Small Cells blog post on MagicBox)
Sprint will be launching 5G on 31st May in 4 cities with LG V50 and HTC 5G Hub. You can learn all about 5G devices from my MWC post on The 3G4G blog here.

Here is the video, courtesy of IEEE TV

Related posts:

Friday 17 May 2019

Iran: Mobile Uncertainty

There are two major mobile operators in Iran: MCI and MTN Irancell, along with minor operator RighTel. Significant progress had been made in the counttry in upgrading infrastructure particularly 3G and 4G networks before the US government reimposed economic sanctions during 2018. 

Mobile penetration is considered to be high with a rate of 119%. Most citizens access 2G and 3G networks and in November 2014, the first 4G LTE network was launched by MTN Irancell. While 4G LTE services are available, primarily in the urban areas – however one third of mobile subscribers don’t own a smart phone.  Further investment in both mobile and fixed telecoms infrastructure, particularly in the rural areas, is required however in order to speed up progress and lower costs for consumers, pave the way for 5G.

The latest official statistics reported by the government relating to the role of mobile operators in Iran’s communication market show that the first operator, Hamrah-e Aval (MCI), has a share of 59.53% of the market. When it comes to broadband services, MCI was the last of the three to upgrade its services to 3G and 4G but were successful in providing these services in all the cities (1246) of the country with 3G, 4G and 4.5G services in a very short time. 

Until June 2017, MCI with a penetration rate of 62.5% expanded its coverage to 32,078 km in main routes and 34,591 km in side routes, which in total with railways reaches 75,595 km and 96.5% of the whole population of the country and cover a total of 44,918 villages.

Some 13 million subscribers actively use internet provided by Hamrah-e-Avval or MCI, giving it the biggest share of the market. The number of MCI subscribers to 3G and 4G Internet has been reported as 12.8 million and 297,000 respectively, however many are unable to receive 4G as MCI only recently started giving out 4G SIMs. By the end of 2016 MCI covered 547 cities with 3G Internet while providing 33 cities with 4G Internet.  

Irancell, partly state-owned and owned by South African MTN group has been established as 2nd provider in the country, they have a 38.47% share  and penetration rate of 40.1% in the communication market. They cover a total of 35,936 km, including 17,631 villages.They started with 3G and 4G in late 2014 and already cover 1040 cities with 3G and 240 cities with 4G/LTE in 2016. Thus more than half of the population has access to fast internet now. In 2016 TD-LTE on 3500 MHz (band 42) was started to replace their WiMAX access and is operational in 49 cities so far. By the end of 2016 10.4 million subscribers use 3G internet provided by Irancell and nearly 1.6 million subscribers use Irancell’s 4G internet.  

The smallest operator Rightel has 2% has a penetration rate of 2.08% covers 27,406 km and 65 villages.

Rightel works great in certain parts of large cities, but has horrible (or non existent) coverage in smaller cities and many rural areas. Many people thought its prices were too high, and the speeds given were much slower than what was advertised. High speed internet also caused some cultural controversies, leading RighTel to restrict selling its SIM cards to those 18 and older.
They reportedly had a total of some 2 million mobile internet users at the end of 2016. RighTel’s 3G Internet coverage expands through 520 cities across Iran. It has only recently started with 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz in the capital.

All 3 featured operators 2G/GSM are on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE started with MCI, Irancell and RighTel on 1800 MHz.

MTN Irancell, and Sweden’s Ericsson jointly conducted a test of 5G connection in Tehran 2017.  Recently ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi wrote on his Twitter account:

“Heading towards 5G! It is an aim we pursue besides development of IoT in 1398 (Iranian calender year). Now, all the Iranian cities and over 66 percent of villages have 3G/4G coverage. We do our best for development of public access in next year despite sanctions. The new generation of telecommunication is waiting for us!” 
However no other details are as of yet confirmed.

In 2018 Nokia provided a range of equipment to mobile operators MTN Irancell and Mobile Communications Company of Iran. It also has a contract with fixed provider HiWeb. Limited fixed services were provided to regional players, either directly or through local contractors. It also sold wireless kit in the country through subsidiary RFS.

During 2018, Nokia booked net sales of almost €55 million from activities in Iran. However Nokia then announced it would refuse new business in Iran during 2019 due to the reintroduction of sanctions by the US government, restricting activity to completing existing contractual obligations.

Iran has blocked some websites and social media like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Some apps like Telegram are not completely banned and WhatsApp has been unblocked and some VoIP calls and messaging are allowed again. But with this 'openess', a system of smart censorship has been introduced. Certain websites that are considered to be offensive are 'phased out'. 

Friday 10 May 2019

Telenor-Axiata Merger expected

According to recent reports Telenor, the Norwegian telecoms operator is proposing to merge its Asian assets with those of Malaysian rival Axiata, creating a group with 300m customers from Thailand to Indonesia. 

The merged group would have $13bn in annual revenues and be the biggest telecoms operator in south-east Asia while the deal would be one of the largest transactions on the continent outside of China or Japan. 

Telenor would own 56.5 per cent of the combined entity while Axiata, whose main shareholder is the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, would hold 43.5 per cent under the proposed deal, which would involve no cash changing hands. 

Telenor, majority-owned by the Norwegian government, has sold off a number of stakes in central and eastern Europe as it seeks to concentrate on the Nordic and Asian regions after being embroiled in a damaging bribery scandal in Russia. They agreed to buy a majority stake in Finnish telecoms challenger DNA last month for €1.5bn, and makes more than half of its revenues from Asia. 

Telenor and Axiata said they both expected cost savings of $5bn from the proposed merger but gave no breakdown as to how and when they would be achieved. The merged company could take part in regional consolidation and would operate about 60,000 towers across Asia with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of about $5.5bn before any synergies. 

Both companies hope to conclude the deal in the third quarter of 2019 after approval by regulators and shareholders. The new company would have its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur and be listed on the Malaysian stock exchange as well as an unnamed international market.

Johor Bahru Internet Exchange chief peering officer Weng Yew Wong said the product rationalisation from the potential merger may lead to reduction of choices and available packages for consumers.

Weng said the potential merger was nothing but a financial rationalisation exercise.

He explained that given the upcoming 5G capital expenditure and the fact that many of the operating markets are fast becoming mature and saturated, the fastest way to deliver shareholder value was to cut cost by merging operation and combining forces. According to Weng: 

“Usually price drop will only be realised when a new player is introduced into the market. It is unlikely that there will be any drastic change in the broadband pricing as a result of the reduction in the number of player in the market.” 

Telenor’s Asian footprint includes Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar. Axiata has operating companies in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, and the tower business edotco. Pro-forma revenue and pre-synergy EBITDA of the combined entity is approximately USD 13 billion (around NOK 113 billion) and USD 5.5 billion (around NOK 48 billion). Axiata’s mobile operations in Bangladesh, Robi, will continue to be separately and independently managed by Axiata.

The merger will mean the new company will have operations in nine countries with a total population of close to one billion people. They will have close to 300 million customers and become one of Asia’s largest mobile infrastructure companies operating approximately 60,000 towers across Asia. The merged company will have its operational headquarters in Kuala Lumpur with the majority of functions and is planned to be listed at an international stock exchange as well as on Bursa Malaysia. 

The two companies’ Malaysian businesses — Celcom for Axiata and Digi for Telenor — would also be merged, creating the company’s largest mobile operator.

The user base of  Celcom, as of December 2018 was 9.08 million mobile subscribers. Digi on the other hand still has 11.25 million subscribers despite a significant decrease in numbers last year. If we combine Celcom’s numbers with Digi’s numbers in a post-merger scenario that is still a user base of over 20 million, which is more than half of Malaysia’s population of roughly 31 million. 

Wednesday 8 May 2019

Swisscom launched 5G Fast and 5G Wide

We wrote a detailed post about 5G Spectrum auctions in Switzerland earlier this year. Now Swisscom has recently announced the launch of its 5G network this month (May 2019):

Long-awaited and available from May: Swisscom presents the first commercially available 5G smartphone in Switzerland. The Oppo Reno 5G is set to make the 5G mobile telephony standard a reality for residential customers. The range of 5G-capable devices will continue to be expanded.

Following the first prototypes at the end of 2018, Swisscom can now announce four end devices for sale. The very first 5G device in the Swisscom shop comes from the manufacturer Oppo, followed by other brands such as LG (from May), Samsung (from July) and Huawei (third quarter).

As can be seen in the picture on the top and the one above, Swisscom has a variety of spectrum available but is also refarming 2G & 3G to use 4G. This way Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G could be used with 4G. So what is happening with Swisscom 2G & 3G:

  • 2G will be switched off at the end of 2020 and the 2G frequencies will be used for 5G. 
  • As of October 2019, the 2100 MHZ frequency will be used for 5G instead of 3G. 3G technology itself, however, will continue to be available on the Swisscom network for some time to come: Standard 3G coverage will be offered at least until the end of 2024.
  • Swisscom has 2x15 MHz of 900 MHz spectrum available. Right now it uses the frequency for 2G & 3G. 3G will continue to run in 900 MHz but 2G will be switched off. Not sure if this means that the 900 MHz 2G will be refarmed for 3G or 5G mMTC kind of usage.

Swisscom PR defined 5G-Fast and 5G-Wide as follows:

As soon as the Federal Office of Communications grants the licence, Swisscom will activate the 5G network which it has established with technology partner Ericsson. The first 5G devices run on a proven frequency in the 3.5 gigahertz band, which was previously used for outdoor TV reports and has now been approved by the federal government for mobile communications. This frequency is designed to achieve speeds of up to 2 Gbit/s (5G-fast). During the media event, Swisscom demonstrated a peak speed of 1.86 Gbit/s. "As number one, we are responsible for our country and must think ahead," says Urs Schaeppi. "We invented prepaid in 1996, introduced Mobile Unlimited as a world first in 2004 and were the first to build a 4G network in 2012. We intend to ensure Switzerland remains an innovation location. We have therefore been shaping the development of 5G in international committees since 2016 and are working on a modernisation of NIRO." By the end of the year, Switzerland will be supplied with 5G; this includes cities, the countryside and the mountain regions. Known as 5G-wide, this stage of the expansion uses frequencies that permit extensive coverage. Customers everywhere will benefit from faster response times, greater bandwidths and, thanks to technology sharing with 4G, higher speeds.

It should be noted that Swisscom also won 700 MHz spectrum in the auctions earlier, so it's a matter of time before we see 5G Ultra-wide or something similar later on.

Further Reading:

Thursday 2 May 2019

Uruguay on 5G: Leading Latin America

Uruguay has the second highest mobile penetration in Latin American (the highest being Panama). The mobile market is dominated by Antel, with Telefónica’s Movistar as second-placed operators and América Móvil’s Claro a distant third. All three operators offer mobile broadband through 3G and LTE networks. Mobile broadband is the fastest growing telecom sector by far. Operators have achieved nationwide 3G coverage, which has attracted a growing number of subscribers outside of Montevideo. The number of mobile broadband subscribers continues to grow strongly. Antel has been at the forefront with LTE services, though the auction of multi-band spectrum in August 2017 has also enabled Movistar and Claro to widen the reach of their LTE offers.

Antel stands for Administración Nacional de Telecomunicaciones, the state-owned, national provider of telecommunication. It has a monopoly for landlines, but on mobile networks, it competes with Movistar and Claro. Still, it's the market leader with 53% of all cellular customers and the best network in the country

Early in April 2019, Uruguay’s state-run telecommunications company, ANTEL, deployed the first 5G commercial network in partnership with Nokia. This was the first upgrade not only in Uruguay but also in Latin America, kick-starting the regional race towards 5G.

ANTEL and Nokia made the first 5G call in Uruguay using the 28 GHz frequency band, demonstrating the low latency capabilities of 5G using a virtual-reality sports application. 5G portfolio is likely to provide ANTEL’s customers with high bandwidth and low latency services, alongside new applications in areas such as virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence. Enterprises will also gain from various IoT vertical use cases enabled by 5G as it will help improve operational efficiency and user experiences while providing new revenue streams.

This network deployment started in the Barra de Manantiales area, Maldonado Department, where the first 5G base stations are operational and ready to provide services. ANTEL showed the ultra-low latencies and high speeds of 5G to local authorities and press at a launch event, using a virtual-reality sports application called "penalty kick".

Nokia and ANTEL have a long and important partnership in delivering mobile, IP and optical services to the Uruguayan market. They continue to work closely together in delivering the full commercial deployment of the 5G radio network. Nokia's services expertise plays a key role in deploying 5G networks and the team worked closely with the ANTEL team to deliver this demonstration for Uruguay.

Andrés Tolosa, the President of ANTEL, stated: 

"We are very proud to be the first operator in Latin America to set a 5G network into commercial service. This milestone is in line with our strong commitment to the development of the industrial and entertainment sectors as well as a great impulse to application development. We are a worldwide reference in FTTH networks and pioneers in providing our subscribers with state-of-the-art mobile networks. This great step towards 5G, with Nokia's support, enhances our technological ecosystem. Once again, we confirm our technological leadership in the region."

The agency reportedly plans to add more networks in other municipalities in the upcoming weeks. Additionally, citizens should be able to equip devices with 5G technology over the next month.

ANTEL also introduced the first 28GHz frequency bandwidth with support from Nokia. The Finnish company provided the 5G infrastructure, the RAN radio access network, optical transmission and supporting services.

José Otero, the vice-president of 5G Americas for Latin America, stressed the importance of the cooperation between the public and private sectors around the world to obtain this new technology. What’s more, ANTEL’s and Nokia’s history goes a long way back, so this initiative also reinforces ties between the entities.

Movistar by Spanish Telefónica is the second provider in the country with a 34% share. It has good coverage on "American" frequencies (see above). 3G coverage is about 50%, 4G/LTE has started in Montevideo 

Claro by Mexican América Móvil is the smallest network in the country on "American" frequencies and a 13% market share. 4G started in 2014 in Montevideo and has spread to other towns. 

Both of the smaller telcos have yet to make progress on 5G.